CORTRAMID Midshipmen Experience SWO Life
By Lt. j.g. Kevin Pilcher and Ensign Alexis Steele, USS Antietam (CG 54) Public Affairs
USS Antietam, At Sea – Sixteen midshipmen participated in Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) aboard USS Antietam (CG 54) July 16 in order to discover the role of the Surface Force plays in the Navy.

Each year, 3rd Class Midshipmen from Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) units throughout the U.S. participate in CORTRAMID to explore their options before accepting a commission.

“This is a rare and excellent opportunity for midshipmen to get a taste of every warfare area the Navy has to offer,” Lt. j.g. Kevin Pilcher, Antietam’s fire control officer, “They have the chance to see everything back to back so they can decide where they are going to serve in the near future.”

The first day began with a tour of the ship that gave the group an in-depth look into the ship’s various departments, including combat systems, engineering, operations, and supply. After the tour, midshipmen participated in small arms fire exercises where they shot M-16 rifles and M-9 pistols.

“Firing the weapons was a real blast,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Timothy Tran, from University of Southern California. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance to.”

In the evening, the group worked with the ship’s crew flight operations where two helicopters worked on their deck landing qualifications.

“Seeing the (helicopters) land at night with the whole air crew running around gave me a respect for how everyone on board has to work together,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Payden Henry, from the University of Texas.

The second day began with a Phalanx Close-In Weapons System firing followed that afternoon by a combat information center simulated drill, during which the group ran combat scenarios including surface and air engagements while learning to operate as a team in a combat environment.

The highlight for many of the midshipmen came when they were given the opportunity to man the helm of the U.S. warship.

“Half science. Half art. Conning a ten thousand ton warship is one of the biggest responsibilities you have as a surface warfare officer,” Pilcher said. “We knew if we didn’t give the midshipmen that experience, then we were going to be seriously depriving them.”

While on the bridge, the midshipmen were thankful for their opportunity to receive instruction from the Antietam’s commanding officer, Capt. J.S. Mitchell. Mitchell took the time to instruct each one during man overboard drills allowing them to see what it was like to maneuver a ship.

“I was really pleased with the level of energy they all showed,” Mitchell said. “We offered the midshipmen a unique opportunity to see what the surface Navy is all about -- something their friend back home working as a lifeguard at the local pool will never get to do.”

At the end of their two days on board, the midshipmen expressed their surprise at how much was expected of junior officers in the Surface Warfare community.

“Seeing how much responsibility the junior officers had on the bridge was really opening” said 3rd Class Midshipman Dan Bandong, from George Washington University. “The SWO community definitely expects a lot out of you as soon as you step on board.”

As the group left the Antietam in a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB), crew members and officers aboard were proud of their role in making the future officers more knowledgeable than before about what it means to be a SWO.

“I really feel like we gave the midshipmen a good taste of what it’s like to be in the SWO community,” said Ensign Jackie Ellis, Antietam’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer. “From helicopter operations, to gun shoots, to giving the morning wake up on the ship board announcing system, the midshipmen were eager to participate in anything we offered them. We all had a great time.”
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