USS CAPE ST. GEORGE, At Sea - Ninety-nine Sailors from the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) qualified as Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialists (ESWS).
Chief Cryptologic Technician Harold Allen, the ESWS coordinator for Cape, said this was a major milestone for the entire crew.
"At the start of deployment, about 30 percent of the crew were qualified ESWS," said Allen. "Now, we're more than 60 percent qualified. This means Cape can fly the silver ESWS pennant."
Ships may fly the ESWS pennant when all eligible Sailors have either achieved their ESWS qualifications or are currently enrolled in the ESWS program.
The ESWS qualification process is designed to provide Sailors with a broad range of operational knowledge across platforms throughout the ship. Sailors must show proficiency in 45 different subjects and conduct 22 walkthroughs of spaces and describes those areas of the ship to ESWS qualifiers. Spaces covered include the ship's bridge, engineering machinery rooms and the Combat Information Center (CIC).
Once all of these steps are completed, candidates must pass a 200-question written exam and two verbal boards. First, they undergo a "murder board" led by first class petty officers, then a final board led by chief petty officers.
"ESWS training is difficult, but it is very rewarding to see Sailors learn and take pride in being surface warriors," said Fire Controlman 1st Class Dylan Evjen, who helps conduct ESWS training in Combat Systems. "It isn't an easy process, especially my board, but when they're done, they can wear their pins with pride knowing they truly earned them."
Cape also has an ESWS incentive program. When Sailors earn their ESWS qualifications, they are pinned by their ESWS mentors, recognizing those Sailors who spend their time teaching and training.
In addition, divisions compete to see which of them can make the most progress in the program each week. Winners earn head-of-the-line privileges in the galley for the week.
A division that is 100 percent qualified receives a plaque to post in their space. Currently, Cape has four such divisions, with many others just one or two Sailors away from earning their plaque.
"I'm just doing my part to help my fellow Sailors get qualified," said Logisitics Specialist 2nd Class Jeremiah Edwards. "I think of it as returning the favor, since not too long ago, I was in their position."
Cape's goal is to qualify 142 ESWS Sailors by the end of deployment, doubling the hull number of 71.
Cape St. George is currently deployed as part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9 with the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9. CSG-9 is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.