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Around The Fleet

Waiting for a Rating

One Sailor's awakening to a new calling

Bulkheads shake and rattle, the sound of jets taking off the flight deck as USS Nimitz cuts through the water leaving a white wake in its path.

A rainbow of Sailors in red, yellow, green, brown, blue and purple scurry along the flight deck looking like a choreographed interpretive dance.

A few decks above the flight deck, sits the chapel. Inside a fresh faced young man with a big smile places a crucifix and candle holders on a table preparing for a religious service.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Alvarado wasn't always assisting chaplains and Sailors at religious ministries.

Alvarado checked aboard Nimitz as an undesignated airman while the ship was still on deployment. It was a trial by fire as he was tossed into the chaos of flight deck operations.

Through his undesignated experiences, he was able to learn about the multiple air ratings, allowing him to truly understand how the Air Department worked together in completing the mission.

However, he felt that he was never truly able to flourish and fulfill his true potential until he had the opportunity to choose a rating and become a petty officer.

As an undesignated airman seeking a rating, the choice was easy for the young aviation boatswain's mate-handling (ABH).
Photo collage of Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Alvarado.


"When I first came in, the minute I came to 'A' school, people gave me slack for being an undesignated airman," said Alvarado.

Instead of allowing himself to lose motivation, he remembered what his leadership said in boot camp: always get his qualifications taken care of and earn his warfare specialist devices quickly.

When Alvarado's time did come to apply for a rating, he was faced with few options.

"I could basically choose between ABH and aviation boatswain's mate-equipment," said Alvarado. "I was more qualified as an ABH, so I went with that."

Alvarado was working in V-1 Division before the ship pulled into the shipyards, but when Nimitz arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for an extended planned incremental maintenance availability he was temporarily sent to Religious Ministries.

Leaving the air department was difficult for Alvarado, and he said he missed his ABH family.

When I was told I was coming here [Religious Ministries] I actually cried," said Alvarado. "I never met a tighter group of people than I had in air department. We could all yell at each other and hate each other, but at the end of the day we had each other's back, and that's the beauty of the air community."

Being in Religious Ministries he said it is easy to not realize how he is helping people just by talking to them, because he doesn't always get to see the results.

However when Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, chief of chaplains, visited she reminded the entire religious programs specialist (RP) about the impact they have. It was then that he knew he wanted to stay in Religious Ministries and become an RP.

We're all about helping people grow spiritually and mentally. I really like talking to people, and that's what the job is, getting out there, talking to people and hearing their story."
- PO3 Justin Alvarado


Feeling compelled to permanently be part of the Religious Ministries team and help people full-term; he began taking the necessary steps to switch ratings to RP.

However, Alvaro had to wait for his chance to apply on career waypoints (C-way) to cross-rate to RP.

C-way is a program that allows Sailors to submit packages and compete for a quota within a certain rating. Sailors can choose to apply for their own rating or another rating to re-enlist in the Navy.

"The most difficult part for me was when I was applying on C-way and waiting to see if I would get picked up or not," said Alvarado.

When thinking back to when he first found out he was selected for RP he said, "I can't even tell you my emotions. I was just really excited. Working in V-1, they're like one big family. I do miss that, but I am looking forward to new adventures, and I have a really close family here in Religious Ministries."

Alvarado is still with Religious Ministries waiting for his orders to come through. He will be going to RP A-school to learn the basics, and will head to his first assignment as a RP.

Every Navy rating plays a unique role that helps complete its mission. Whether it is scurrying across flight deck getting ready to launch aircraft or being there to listen to Sailors when they need someone, there is always a way to contribute to the fight.

Ronald Reagan Chaplain story for AH.mil