SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) hosted 30 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and Naval ROTC units, from June 27 to July 22, as part of the Midshipman Summer Cruise program.
The midshipmen joined Makin Island for two weeks in port and two weeks underway to learn about U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations at sea, experience shipboard life, and gain a more thorough understanding of the responsibilities of junior officers afloat.
"The midshipmen are here to experience life as a junior enlisted [Sailor] and junior officer on board surface ships in the Navy," said Assistant Training Officer Lt. j.g. Christopher Yee, from Fremont, California. "This experience gives the midshipmen a better understanding and foresight of how to best serve the enlisted men and women they will lead upon joining the fleet as division officers."
"The summer cruise allows midshipmen to see many facets of the Navy, which is important because they get to learn about their different career options," said Lt. j.g. Sarah Kline, from Apex, North Carolina. "It is our responsibility to educate them as much as possible about this platform and the Navy-Marine Corps team so they can make an informed decision when they choose a career path."
The midshipmen joined Makin Island underway during the ship's first phase of integrated training with Amphibious Squadron 5 and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
"I really appreciated being able to visit the pilot house," said Midshipman 3rd Class Devon Mockridge, from Center Moriches, New York. "I was able to see USS Somerset (LPD 25) and USS Comstock (LSD 45) sail in formation with Makin Island, which helped remind me that there is more going on than just what is right in front of you, and how everything is part of a bigger mission."
"I've enjoyed learning what enlisted life is like," said USNA Midshipman 3rd Class Kylie Johnson, from Berwyn, Pennsylvania. "From living in the enlisted berthing, eating on the mess decks and seeing the day-to-day life of an enlisted Sailor, I have a stronger understanding of how decisions I will make as a division officer will impact those I will be responsible for."
Each midshipman was given a running mate -- officers for midshipmen first class and enlisted Sailors for midshipmen second and third class -- responsible for ensuring each midshipman had the most thorough and educational experience while aboard Makin Island.
Midshipmen shadowed their running mates throughout the ship, learning how their mentors accomplished daily duties. The midshipmen stood watch with their running mates, observed how they conducted maintenance, attended briefings with them, cleaned the ship beside them, and enjoyed meals with them all in an attempt to gain an understanding of Navy shipboard life and operations.
Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Danni Li, from Flushing, New York, was grateful to be selected as Johnson's running mate.
"Getting chosen to host a midshipman was an honor, and I've enjoyed teaching her all about shipboard life," said Li. "She's also given me a lot of advice about leadership. We're learning from each other, and it's a win-win situation."
While the midshipmen experienced day-in and day-out life aboard, the future officers participated in several events off-ship as well.
"Since being underway I've flown in [a MV-22] Osprey, which was an awesome opportunity," said Johnson. "The entire crew has been very accommodating. They even let us ride in an LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion)."
Boston College Midshipman 2nd Class Catherine Senoyuit, from Perkasie, Pennsylvania, said her running mate and the crew were very friendly and informative.
"It's been nice getting [to] see the spaces and talk with each of the Sailors," said Senoyuit. "Everyone is so knowledgeable about what they do, and they're willing to break it down for me in a way that I can understand. That adds a lot of value to the entire experience."
Not only does the summer cruise give midshipmen a chance to see shipboard operations firsthand, but it also allows commanding officers the opportunity to decide which future leaders will have a place in their wardrooms.
"At the end of the summer, the commanding officer will be allowed to select two midshipmen [first class] from their summer cruise to join the USS Makin Island wardroom after their commissioning," said Yee.
From MV-22 Osprey rides and simulated amphibious assaults to morning quarters, cleaning stations and small-arms weapons qualifications, the midshipmen appeared to enjoy a summer most college students will never know, all the while learning something no shore-based classroom can teach -- the feeling of being underway with the world's greatest Navy.
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