USS America
PACIFIC OCEAN (May 18, 2016) The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts flight operations off the coast of Southern California during the ship's recertification of the flight deck after completing a 10-month Post Shakedown Availability (PSA). America is an aviation centric amphibious assault ship that supports small-scale contingency operations of an expeditionary strike group, to forcible entry missions in major theaters of war. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan A. Colon/Released)
Future Leaders Embark USS America

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Midshipmen of the Naval Academy and college students enrolled in Naval Reserve Officer Training Course (NROTC) programs around the country are embarking aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) for the Navy's summer training program.

The Navy's next generation officers are experiencing the daily life of shipboard operations while the ship is at sea. In the first two weeks of the program, 46 Midshipman embarked aboard the ship and more than 250 future officers are scheduled to embark throughout the summer.

The objective of this training is to further the professional development of midshipmen by introducing them to the operational Navy and Marine Corps. This reinforces their academic year programs, instilling a sense of pride in their identification with the military and inclining them towards a career in the naval service.

"After their academic year is over, they come out to the fleet to gain experience on what they'll be getting into when they graduate," said Lt. Brendan McGunigle, air department's V-3 division officer and Midshipman visit coordinator. "If you think of the enlisted side, when you're up for a rate you get to hear the job description and get a brief overview of what it is you'll be doing. They have the benefit of being able to go out to sea and get to see every little part of Navy life. They then can make an informed decision on what they may want to do."

America has continually performed flight quarters throughout their current underway period off the coast of southern California. This has given midshipmen an opportunity to view AV-8B Harriers, CH-53 Sea Stallions, MV-22 Ospreys, SH-60R Seahawks and MH-60S Knighthawks land and takeoff from the ship's flight deck.

The midshipmen were also able to take rides on the 7-meter and 11-meter rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB), fully displaying the aviation and operational capabilities of an amphibious assault ship.

"The purpose is to show them what we do on a day-to-day basis as far as our work schedule [goes], and to get a perspective of the overall mindset of the personnel in the Navy," said Aviation Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class John Miller, assigned to air department's V-4 division.

Each midshipmen is given a running mate throughout their stay to help acclimate them to shipboard life and give them practical, hands-on experience. This gives the Midshipmen a firsthand experience in multiple areas of ship life prior to their commissioning after graduation.

"That's the best thing about these cruises that we do as midshipman in my eyes," said Midshipman Shawn White, fullback on the Naval Academy football team and assigned to the supply department while aboard. "I like to talk with the Sailors, hear their experiences and try to gain an appreciation for what they do, because at the end of the day, they really do most of the work. It's nice to gain that perspective on what they go through on a daily basis."

Running mates are given a unique opportunity to show upcoming officers their way of life and it is something that they do not take for granted.

"It's been a good experience for me so far and I feel like, through this program, we are shaping the way [the midshipmen] may lead us as officers," said Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Julienne Northern, assigned to weapons department G-1 division. "I think this is a good overall experience for everyone involved, because it lets us know that our future officers are willing to see what we go through on a daily basis and the different parts of our jobs."

White believes the experience allowed him the opportunity to learn about his future job by exploring the ship and receiving one-on-one mentoring from various Sailors of all pay grades.

"It's been a great learning experience; I think as a whole it's getting everything out of it that you can," said White. "I didn't take as much advantage of this last year as I did this time. I'm a lot more active this year, learning a lot more, understanding a lot more and it's been good to gain some knowledge on what I'll be doing when I graduate."

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