McCain Sailors Test Their Mettle on Ronald Reagan during Valiant Shield 2018

180822-N-FN963-1016 SOUTH CHINA SEA (Aug. 22, 2018) Operations Specialist Seaman Recruit Alex Hoerman, from Asheville, N.C., stands navigation watch on the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Ronald Reagan is forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Richard L.J. Gourley)

PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) – While a U.S. Navy ship is in dry dock for repairs, or upgrades, many of her crew will be placed in a temporary assigned duty (TAD) status and will work outside of their normal career fields. Many of these TAD jobs will involve getting the ship ready for installing new systems or helping to preserve spaces that might need renovation and repair. But some Sailors get the opportunity to go TAD to other ships and learn to ply their trade on different systems and platforms that they might not often get to experience normally. Operations Specialist Seaman Recruits Alex Hoerman, from Asheville, N.C., and William Hickman, from Oakdale, Tenn., both assigned to the forward-deployed guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), are two such individuals.

Although the two have only had a limited time on their own ship, as well as in Japan, they’re excited to join the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 for a deployment in the Indo-Pacific region and to participate in exercises like Valiant Shield 2018.

“We were told the Friday before deployment that we would be going TAD and that only gave us about 3 days to prepare,” said Hoerman. “It was very short notice but that’s okay. We needed to get out there and get some sea time.”

The two young Sailors joined the crew and hit the ground running.

“I feel like we’re really getting the basics here,” said Hickman. “Even though there are differences between the carrier and destroyer, I think a lot of this will transfer over and will be useful back on the [USS] John S. McCain.”

But just like any experience going out to sea, carrier life can have its fair share of challenges.

“Finding time to get everything done can be difficult,” said Hoerman. “Between learning all of the details of your job, trying to get your training completed, and standing your watches, there isn’t a whole lot of time to relax.”

And the sheer magnitude of a ship like USS Ronald Reagan can be daunting.

“There’s more people on this ship than the closest three cities to me growing up combined,” said Hickman. “It’s strange for me, having grown up in a small city. You just don’t realize how big an aircraft carrier is until you see it person.”

Operations Specialists, like Hickman and Hoerman, have a multitude of important jobs on almost every class of ship in the Navy. During normal operations and exercises, like Valiant Shield 2018, they function as plotters, radio-telephone talkers, and operate surveillance and altitude radars.

“I think that it is a great idea to send Sailors underway that haven't been [before],” said Chief Operations Specialist Acie Blocton, their leading chief petty officer. “It gives them a chance as OS's [Operations Specialists] to progress in their rate. It also helps the readiness of the ship that they go to. I’m looking forward to see what these Sailors do in the future.” USS Ronald Reagan and DESRON 15 are forward-deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. They are currently participating in Valiant Shield 2018. Valiant shield is a U.S. only, biennial field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training in a blue–water environment among U.S. forces. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.

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