USS Makin Island
“Gung Ho”
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Story Number: NNS090215-12 

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tiffani Paredes, Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island Public Affairs

-- As Pre-Commissioning Unit Makin Island (LHD 8) increases operational tempo, travel entitlements such as return to homeport (RTH) are relieving Sailors of the stress of being separated from family.

One such crew member, Combat Systems Information Officer Lt. Cmdr. Robert Leopold, can testify to its benefits. After transferring to the ship's construction site in Mississippi, he has been able to occasionally visit his family in San Diego, thanks to RTH.

It was his most recent trip home that was probably the most rewarding. He returned to re-enlist his daughter-in-law, Personnel Specialist 3rd Class Laura Leopold, aboard the aircraft carrier museum USS Midway (CV 41). Laura's husband and Lt. Cmdr. Leopold's son, Personnel Specialist Seaman Patrick Leopold, also attended. The event was on Midway's flight deck, where Laura's mother-in-law, Robbin, close friends and everyone from her command witnessed te ceremony.

"I was down in Pascagoula [Mississippi] when I got a phone call asking if I would re-enlist her," recalled Leopold. "I didn't know she was up for reenlisting, but once I found out, it was a great surprise."

He said not only was re-enlisting family a surprise, but an honor and when his schedule and method of travel became an issue, RTH provided much-needed support.

"It was a huge relief," said Laura. "It wouldn't have been the same [without Lt. Cmdr. Leopold]. I just think it's going to be pretty cool to say not only, 'This is my husband, who's also in the Navy,' but that my father-in-law is active duty at the same time. To have all three of us in the same place at the same time doing the same thing is completely awesome to me."

Conveniently, the Midway Museum is located across from Laura's command, Reserve Component Command Navy Region Southwest. Patrick did not have to drive far for the ceremony either, as he is stationed aboard USS Sterrett (DDG 104).

"That's naval history right there across the street from her office," said Lt. Cmdr. Leopold. "The fact that she was able to make that work will be something she'll remember for the rest of her career."

The RTH travel entitlement is available only to pre-commissioning Sailors with dependents and becomes active the 31st day after reporting to the command's construction site. Every 60 days from then on, Sailors can use RTH to either visit dependents or have dependents visit. The entitlement is paid based on government travel rates.

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