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Focus on Service

From Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class To Third Mate

Sailor turns dream into reality

Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Richard D. Vissoh has earned his Third Mate Unlimited Oceans certification from the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy (MAMA) in Norfolk, Va. What would normally take four years to accomplish, took Vissoh only a year and a half, and all at night.

Vissoh, who is stationed at Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center (MARMC) Norfolk, is a member of the deck department, a watch stander, and a ship safety officer. By earning this highly impressive certification, he is now qualified to be the fourth in command.

Vissoh dreamed of this moment and knew it would eventually come -- he just didn't know when. During his many deployments, Vissoh would often stand watch on the bridge and have discussions with ensigns and senior officers who attended maritime schools in New York. He would often talk about his desire to become an officer in the Navy and the many opportunities that come with that designation. A few of the officers Vissoh spoke to had the Third Mate certification in their backgrounds.

"I always had a goal to become an officer in the U.S. Navy and just assumed that you had to be an officer to be able eligible for Third Mate," said Vissoh. "Once I came to MARMC, I met a recruiter from MAMA and found out that I could register for the program. I knew opportunities like this one only come around a few times in one's lifetime. I didn't second guess it and I was fully committed to completing the program."

The Third Mate Unlimited Oceans certification process is a rigorous program complete with numerous classes ranging from basic entry level courses all the way up to Bridge Resource Management and Celestial Navigation. Vissoh completed 23 night courses, with each class lasting from one to four weeks. After completing the courses, Vissoh's next step was to complete 37 individual assessments (very similar to personnel qualification standards). Once the assessments were complete, they were sent to the U.S. Coast Guard for verification. Once verified, Vissoh received a letter stating that he could test for his Third Mate certification. Vissoh studied for the next 30 days before taking the exams.

"I worked, came home and studied," said Vissoh. "I really didn't have much time for social events or even family time. On weekends, I studied all day. On Sunday, for example, I would go to church in the morning and then go right to the library and study all day."

Vissoh's hard work and dedication paid off as he passed all seven exams. He attained a certification that very few have in the Navy.

"The entire staff at Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy is truly impressed with Vissoh's accomplishments," said Ed Horton, MAMA's lead instructor. "He passed all seven exams for the Third Mate certification. There are several maritime academies located around the U.S. and those students have four years to take their classes, study and prepare for their exams. Vissoh did everything in one and a half years, at night! This even includes him taking off eight weeks to study for his first class exam."
Photo collage of BM2 Vissoh.


Now, Vissoh's goal is to make first class and then put in his limited duty officer package. In reality, Vissoh could get out of the Navy after his enlistment and start an incredibly lucrative civilian career, but he wants to be an officer and give back to an organization he feels has given him so much.

According to Vissoh, being committed and singularly focused are keys to attaining one's goals.

"I advise my fellow Sailors to find a mentor and really try to learn something from him or her," said Vissoh. "Keep your mind focused on exactly what you want to accomplish. Nothing is easy -- only with dedication and willpower will you accomplish your goals. You can do it!"

Vissoh has always enjoyed being on the high seas. By earning this certification, he has not only insured that he will be able to provide for his family for years to come, but also work in a field that he loves.