USS San Diego Qualifies Its First Marine Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist
Pacific Ocean -- A lean, green, ESWS (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) Marine is an unusual phrase aboard a ship, but as of Feb. 13 it echoes through the passageways of amphibious transport dock ship USS San Diego (LPD 22).
Sgt. Arielle Coleman, a Marine assigned to 11TH Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Gainesville, Florida, was recognized as San Diego’s very first Marine to achieve the prestigious enlisted surface warfare qualification. The ESWS qualification has long been a significant, fleet-wide objective for all shipboard Sailors and is now an optional achievement for embarked Marines.
“Having crewmembers that are trained to understand, identify, operate and stand watches throughout the ship increases versatility and survivability in the event of an unfortunate disaster,” said Chief Fire Controlman Brian Dowdy, Chief Coordinator of the ESWS program aboard San Diego. “Future success in situations like those onboard USS Cole and USS Stark could heavily rely on the number and quality of ESWS qualified Sailors at the command.”
And now San Diego can add a Marine from the already greatly cohesive green side of the team to the ship’s list of surface warriors.
Coleman, who is a criminal investigator aboard San Diego, works in the Master-At-Arms office; a world away from her usual post at the Camp Pendleton Base Prevost Marshall’s Office.
“I assist with small service calls around the ship and so far we have not had a ton of incidents and it’s been very quiet,” stated Coleman. “Due to the lack of investigations that I’ve had to initiate on this deployment, I’ve had some free time to challenge myself and obtaining the ESWS pin definitely did that.”
The time consuming qualification is no easy task. Sailors are required to earn many pre-requisite watchstanding qualifications before even starting the general and unit specific surface warfare training programs. Marines are afforded the opportunity to waive the watchstanding requirements but are just as accountable as their Navy counterparts for tackling all that there is to know about surface warfare.
“It took a lot of study hours, hands on activities, and getting to know the ship,” said Coleman. “My natural curiosity about how the ship works and a desire to challenge myself is what really got me going on this ESWS process.”
Coleman considered the October 2014 ESWS Training Fair, hosted by the San Diego’s Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions, to be the starting point of her training journey. Coleman believed the fair offered crewmembers a chance to receive on-the-spot training and guidance on many of their ESWS needs and proved to be extremely helpful.
So far on deployment San Diego has qualified 161 Sailors and 1 Marine with many others ready to take their written examination and oral boards. Coleman now believes that she can be a great influence to others seeking this goal and become a point of contact for the process.
“Some of my junior Marines approached me about studying with them for their pin and now that we are down to our final weeks to qualify for it, their noses are really in the books and I am glad to be able to help,” said Coleman.
Coleman also reflected on some of the quirkier effects of being a Marine surface warrior.
“Some of the funniest moments happen when I’ll hear Sailors studying. I’ll just randomly come over and start quizzing them on ESWS questions; everyone will just stop and look at me weird. So it’s been a little weird and funny being the only ESWS Marine so far,” Coleman revealed. “But they’ll answer the questions and ask me questions and before you know it we’ll have a study session going.”
Senior Marine Corps leaders believed that Coleman’s accomplishment would serve as a reminder of what it means to take initiative and lead from the front.
“This sends a positive message to both Sailors and Marines. We like to teach leadership by example in addition to our 14 leadership traits and this was just an example set by her that I know will inspire others,” said MSgt. Isaac Hart, Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Element, 11TH MEU. “This is a prime example of small unit leadership at the E-5 level striving to understand what it is to be a part of the grand branch of the Navy. It’s impressive and a step towards the Marine Corps getting back to our Naval traditions.”
Navy leadership echoed that idea and emphasized the demonstration of unity that Coleman’s achievement could create.
“It really exemplifies the Navy-Marine Corps family atmosphere we've all worked so hard to create and maintain here,” explained Dowdy. “What better way to embody teamwork than learning the job of others and tackling an incredibly large qualification like ESWS? It shows that both sides are committed and interested in learning what each of our branches of the military do.”
While Marines are not authorized to actually wear the pinned surface warfare insignia on their uniforms, Coleman will now have an extra qualification marked in her service record. San Diego’s newest green side ESWS warrior expressed her appreciation for her unique view of shipboard naval operations.
“I think ESWS is great because it really helps open your eyes to what all of the Navy personnel do on the ship,” added Coleman. “It was really nice to get to see that side of the world.”
San Diego, part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group and on deployment with the 11th MEU, is returning to homeport San Diego following a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific and the U.S. Central Command areas of operation.