USS Makin Island
“Gung Ho”
San Diego Hosts Aviation Boatswains Mate Association Symposium

SAN DIEGO—The Handerly Hotel bustled with activity, beginning early in the morning of Aug. 6, as members of U.S. Navy Aviation Boatswain’s Mate ratings from all over the world gathered for a week-long symposium.

This year, the San Diego Aviation Boatswain’s Mate chapter hosted the meeting, bringing together more than 200 Sailors and civilian vendors for five days of learning and relationship-building.

“The symposium is comprised of a professional working group, coming together to decide how we improve our rates for the future,” said Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Fernando Diaz, regional vice president of the Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Association (ABA). “We bring in vendors from around the world to give us information about the equipment available to us.”

The vendors supply gear and ideas that are relevant to the jobs of the aviation ratings, introducing both new equipment and improvements to old equipment.

“They come in and they show us what we can order and how we can order it, and we make connections there,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Jenna Leggett, vice president of the San Diego chapter of the ABA. “If we have questions about the equipment in the future, we know who to call.”

Those in attendance expressed satisfaction with the high level of rating interaction and intercommunication.

“It was great to have so many of the aviation community together,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Dania Gallardo, assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). “There were people who flew in from all around the world. We got to see old and new faces; all like-minded people. It was a great way to meet new leadership.”

The event offered working groups for each rating, during which important topics or changes within the ratings were discussed, such as the integration of the F-35.

“We talked about all the hot topics,” said Leggett. “If people proposed an issue before the symposium happened, we brought it up. They opened it up for discussion, and resolved whatever possible. I believe it’s important to make these kind of connections, both with other aviation rates, and also with the vendors. I think the networking is really the biggest part of what we get out of this event.”

Junior Sailors were given the opportunity to ask questions of senior enlisted and officers.

“The best part was at the end, just getting to speak to leadership,” said Airman Apprentice Gabriel Cruz, a Makin Island Sailor. “They took down any complaints that people had. There were officers and master chiefs, a lot of combined experience, and you could ask them any questions you had. Very friendly. Anything you asked, they had an answer for. If you want to further your career in the Navy, those are the people to ask about how to do it in the aviation department.”

Attendants enjoyed a banquet, during which the two Aviation Boatswain’s Mates of the year, from both the East and West Coasts, received their awards.

As the symposium ended, many expressed how much they had gained from the event, both intellectually and socially.

“If you go to one of these symposiums,” said Diaz, “you’re going to gain insight into what we as Aviation Boatswain’s Mates provide, and at the same time build camaraderie, and get to know who you work for.”

The Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Association looks forward to further improving communication, unity, and safety for the future at next year’s scheduled symposium in Norfolk.

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