GUAM (NNS) -- "On my way I was very nervous, worried I might not be ready," said Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Peter Oculien, a Navy Reservist originally from Saint Lucia.
Oculien, an overnight sales associate for a large retailer and full-time college student in Central Florida, had flown over 8,000 miles from Florida to land in Guam to start an active duty training (ADT) period aboard the forward-deployed landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).
Ashland had requested reserve support in critical areas to enhance material readiness and training readiness. Oculien was one of 18 Reserve Sailors who would embark during Ashland's mid-deployment maintenance availability in Guam in early September for a 25-day stretch.
Oculien had joined the Navy Reserves in 2015 to assist in college tuition and to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He had mostly served his two-weeks a year on active duty in out-of-rate jobs that were shore based. This year, the opportunity to join a ship was advertised and he jumped for it.
Being his first time on a ship and lacking some of the basic qualifications of shipboard life that most active Sailors have, Oculien naturally had some initial jitters. But those jitters quickly faded as stepped from pier onto Ashland. Excitement ran through his veins.
"I was going to be accomplishing a life-long goal," said Oculien. "This would be my first time on a ship, and I was very excited about the opportunity."
His active duty counterparts welcomed him with open arms, showing him around the ship and easing fears about qualifications.
"Once I met my division, my worries were gone," said Oculien.
In no time, Oculien was working side-by-side with his active duty counterparts, contributing to the daily tasks of the EM shop. They not only made him feel part of the family but dedicated time to train him in the EM rate.
"They care about you," Oculien said about working with his new shipmates.
Members Oculien's shop felt he has been a great addition to the team.
"He's always ready," said Electrician's Mate 3rd Class Michael Mansfield, an Ashland Sailor who works with Oculien. "He picks up knowledge really easily and always asks how he can help. He's a great example of how motivated Reservists are."
Oculien was just one of the many other Reservists to be on a ship for the first time in their Navy careers.
"I wanted the shipboard experience to prepare me for the future," said Gunner's Mate Seaman Kasey Britt, a Navy Reservist from Mount Gilead, N.C. who also works at a large retailer while attending community college. Britt aspires to go active-duty after finishing school.
Britt acknowledged that life on a ship can be challenging but has enjoyed the experience.
"At first, it was hard to adjust to the berthing," said Britt about her living quarters. "Not a lot of space and racks are small but the sleep I've had underway is great. I think it's the waves rocking me at night."
Britt said her division, weapons division, has also been very helpful.
"They have taught me a lot," said Britt. "I've learned about the weapons systems, shooting and taking apart guns, how to be a firing line coach and help other Sailors in weapons qualifications."
Britt said her time on Ashland has been special because of her shipmates.
"When I leave I'm going to miss all the Sailors I was able to meet," said Britt. "They've kept me entertained, laughing, moving and motivated."
After 25 days of ADT, the Reservists who spent almost a month on Ashland have now flown home, reporting to their Navy Operational Support Center and then returning to their lives in the civilian world. The Reservists departed with experience in hand and made an impact while on board.
"Reservists were here to learn while assisting in all that we do," said Cmdr. Patrick German, Ashland's executive officer. "This was an opportunity for them to brush up their skills and get some qualifications covered. They were able to do that and they were a wonderful addition to the ship."
German said he wanted the reservists to know that this would always be their ship and it's important for other Reservists to be aware of these ADT opportunities.
"Reservists have a choice of where they can go," said German. "We encourage them to come out more, see what we are doing, be a part of what we are doing and support the fleet."
As Oculien rendered that final, "Permission to go ashore" request to the Officer of the Deck, he knew he was leaving with special memories.
"It has been phenomenal," said Oculien about his time on the ship. "Meeting the Sailors, being a part the team and experiencing a sunset at sea has all been special. I can understand why people extend in the Navy and why they miss certain ships when they leave. It's like a family."
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