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Around The Fleet

Shift Colors: Class Offers Nimitz Sailors a New Perspective

Arriving at the crossroads of good and poor decisions

Newton's third law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction; the same might be true when it comes to making choices as well.

Whether it's choosing to hit the snooze button or not, or which boot to take off first before hitting the rack at night, Sailors make hundreds, if not thousands of choices every day. Though these might seem like minor issues, it's true that some decisions can have a major impact on our lives, and taking action without thinking about the opposite reaction, or consequence, can be costly. A series of minor bad choices may ultimately lead to a dead-end path, with disciplinary review boards, executive officer's investigation, or even captain's mast waiting as the final stop.

So what options are available if a Sailor finds him or herself at the crossroads of good and poor decisions?

Learning how to be proactive with one's life instead of reactive is what the class Shift Colors is all about, according to one of the course's instructors, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Anthony Black.

"More and more Sailors are coming to the class before they get in trouble," Black said. "I get approached each and every day, sometimes multiple times a day, by people asking how they can get into the class."

When Black first began teaching Shift Colors aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68), 100 percent of participants were Sailors who were either on, or just getting off, restriction.

"Now it's more like 60 percent of the class is on restriction, and the rest are either referred by their departments or are volunteers," said Black.

THE STRUGGLE

"Many junior Sailors hit a fork in the road where they struggle between what sort of Sailor he or she wants to be," said Chief Yeoman Kyle Kistner, a leading chief petty officer who referred one of his Sailors to the Shift Colors class a few weeks ago.

"We were seeing subtle changes in his behavior - his bearing was starting to slide, he was having a hard time getting along with others," Kistner said of his Sailor.

Normally a very professional individual, Kistner knew that things needed to change.

"Once you start going down that path, making bad decisions can become a habit," said Kistner. "We had tried other options, but thought the class would be a good way to be proactive and help get him back on track."

THE CHOICE

"I grew up in a part of Atlanta where there wasn't much to do besides skate and get in trouble," Yeoman Seaman Apprentice Darren Davies said. "I was working a factory job, and thought to myself, 'this isn't really living.'"

Davies joined the Navy and found himself, with many, many others, shuffling through the transitions from Boot Camp, to "A" school, to his first duty station: XO's Admin on board Nimitz.

"Working with executive people is a big change from my factory job," said Davies. It's really important to be professional and squared away."

A few months ago, Davies found himself struggling with some serious personal issues. Before he knew it, his personal life began affecting his job.

"I began forgetting my General Orders - the basic stuff that every Sailor needs to be good at if they want to do a good job," Davies said. "I was losing sight of why I had joined."

Davies said he knew he wasn't performing at his potential, and he didn't like that. He went to Chief Kistner and asked for more responsibilities.

"He took that as me saying I was ready to change," said Davies, "and that's when he suggested I go to Shift Colors."

THE CLASS

"This is an opportunity for Sailors to evaluate how they got to where they are, and figure out how to get back on track," said Black.

Davies said he wasn't sure what to expect when he went to Shift Colors. What he found was a pleasant surprise.

"It was kind of like a scene from 'The Breakfast Club;' there were people from every niche on board," Davies said. "Even though we all come from different places, the Navy throws us all together like a big family, and we have to learn how to support each other and get along."

Participating in the class gave Davies an opportunity to hear stories from others, which showed him that he wasn't the only person on the ship having to balance a difficult personal life with trying to do well at work.

"By the time people come to this class, they have probably forgotten why they joined the Navy," Black said. "The purpose of this class is to help them remember how they felt when they got out of boot camp; how they felt when they swore in."

Black said the class has had a cumulative 87 percent positive feedback from the different chains of command on the boat for the past two and a half years.

"That tells me we're doing something right," Black said.

A NEW PATH

"He immediately had a more positive outlook towards both the office and life in the Navy in general," Kitsner said of Davies.

Since completing Shift Colors, Davies has left XO's Admin and is now training to be the sole yeoman responsible for the Safety Department.

"After the class, I started studying and pushing myself to do well. I wanted to really represent XO's Admin," said Davies. "That's when doors really started to open for me."

Black said he is hoping the class will eventually become a big Navy program, citing the success rate he's seen on board, as well as personal stories he has witnessed on board such as Davies'. He also encourages anyone and everyone to attend the class.

"Don't be afraid to better yourself," Black said. "If you don't take pride in who you are and what you do, who will?"

Read more about USS Nimitz on their blog.