SASEBO, Japan - Fifteen midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy and one Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps midshipman embarked forward-deployed amphibious transport docking ship USS Denver (LPD 9) to experience life on a Navy vessel during their summer training cruise from June 24 to July 17, 2013.
This invaluable firsthand experience gave the future officers an opportunity to understand what the U.S. Navy offers prior to joining the fleet as Ensigns, according to Denver’s Training Officer Lt. j.g. Francisco Lopez.
For many midshipmen entering their sophomore year this marked their first introduction to the fleet after an arduous freshmen (plebe) year. They were assigned a petty officer to follow in order to learn hands-on what enlisted Sailors of the surface Navy do on a daily basis. This exposure is meant to assist midshipmen in their decision-making, teaching them that as naval officers, their leadership styles and direction will immensely affect the lives of their Sailors. For the more senior midshipmen, the 3-week training consisted of shadowing a junior officer, honing skills they will use in just one year’s time.
"This is a unique experience providing a diverse exposure to the Navy," said Lopez. "The lessons and experiences they walk away with will stick with them. They will remember everything about these few weeks."
The first day consisted of the midshipmen familiarizing themselves with the ship and its crew. One critical part was meeting their running mates, junior officers who served as guides, helping midshipmen navigate the ship and sharing their knowledge of equipment, standard Navy procedures, and lessons learned.
“So far I’ve really enjoyed working around the ship and learning as much as I can,” said Midshipmen 1st Class Jonathan Yuen, a senior at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Midshipmen not only observed but took part in various evolutions and stood several watches aboard Denver, gaining insight to the ship's underway routine. They directly participated in a number of training teams and scenarios involving damage control, navigation, and tactical operations such as firing an M203 Grenade Launcher.
"I was a midshipman myself just three years ago, so I know what it feels like and what they are going through," said Lopez. "I am here to answer questions and help in any way I can."
Enlisted Sailors onboard Denver got a chance to show their level of knowledge too. With plenty of questions that could only be answered by the people who do the work, these future Sailors had an opportunity to learn from the best.
“I think it has given me a better perspective, said Midshipman 1st Class Jillian Coughlin. “We get all the hands-on training and we get to ask questions. For us to have the opportunity to experience all the different aspects [of life at sea] before we get out here is pretty much the best thing we can get.”
Denver’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Kevin P. Lenox, was also very excited to have the midshipmen aboard.
“Having the midshipmen onboard energized the whole crew,” said Lenox. “Their eagerness to learn and their excitement about serving reminded us all why we chose this profession. It’s also a great opportunity to set the next generation of officers on a path to professional success. I wish I could keep them onboard longer.”
Denver is on patrol with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), and with the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently conducting routine joint-force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
The Bonhomme Richard ESG is commanded by Capt. Cathal O’Connor, commodore Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.