PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) went back to boot camp this yard period from July to September 2006 by sponsoring the recruits of Ship 12 Division 247.
Six chiefs volunteered for the sponsorship at Recruit Training Command (RTC) Great Lakes, organized by Senior Chief Torpedoman's Mate (SW/AW) Joe Thomas.
"We could not do it last summer because of the schedule," said Thomas. "Now that we are in the yards, I brought it up to the command master chief again and he said it was good. That's how it was started."
Thomas was a former Recruit Division Commander (RDC) from RTC and knew that other divisions had sponsors and thought it would be a good idea if Truman got involved.
With all lights green, Thomas called the public affairs officer of RTC, filled out the necessary paperwork, and after communication was established, a division was assigned. Senior Chief Ship's Serviceman (SW/AW) Raymond Nester assisted Thomas with ordering t-shirts and a flag with Truman's logo so the recruits could identify who was sponsoring them.
A schedule was then created to pair up the participating chiefs and assign them with either the commissioning, battle stations, or graduation to ensure a representative would be at each event to show Truman's support.
"Chiefs or Sailors would go there and discuss fleet and other subjects with [the recruits] or to motivate them," said Thomas.
Chief Machinist's Mate (SW/AW) Troy Copeland was the first chief to have the honor of introducing Truman to the recruits at their commissioning ceremony in July.
"I wanted to volunteer last October because I knew there was going to be a USS Harry S. Truman sponsorship and me being a prior RDC, I jumped at the chance," said Copeland.
He enthusiastically poured out all the advice he acquired during his naval career to the eager recruits. Copeland then answered any questions the recruits had about the Navy. They asked him about Truman's history, shipboard life, his prior experience "pushing boots," and his retirement.
"I instructed them on the importance of attention to detail," said Copeland. "If you can't fold a t-shirt and stow it properly, then I'm not going to send you out to the fleet to work on million dollar equipment. I told the recruits that [the Navy] is a secure job and you can make a nice career out of it."
With that last piece of advice, Copeland left for Norfolk to pass the torch to Chief Legalman (SW/AW) Joann Bartley and Chief Information System Technician (SW) Steven Ayotte. With the responsibility now in their hands, they traveled to RTC to motivate the recruits through battle stations.
Ayotte, who went two days without sleep to run battle stations with the division, said he was impressed by the recruits.
"I flew out Wednesday morning, I was up all Wednesday night, flew home Thursday morning, and did not go to sleep till midnight," said Ayotte. "The recruits made it worth it. During physical training runs in between battle stations, they motivated me and I motivated them."
After battle stations, the recruits attended their ball cap ceremony which, Ayotte said, was a memorable affair.
"The ceremony involved the viewing of the Enduring Freedom video and passing out the Navy ball cap," said Ayotte. "Seeing these recruits tear up, knowing that they passed their first major step in the Navy, this even brought a tear to my eye. I was really proud of these recruits."
The graduation was the end of Truman's sponsorship and the beginning for these Sailors ready to enter the fleet. Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW/SW) Chris Ciavola and Chief Aviation Ordnanceman (AW) John Barfield had the honor of flying out Sept. 7 to attend the graduation Sept. 8.
Thompson said the overall experience was positive, and Truman looks forward to the possibility of participating in the sponsorship of another division next year.
"It was a good way for the recruits to become aware of what is out there and that the fleet cares about them," Thompson said.
Truman is in the last several months of its docked planned incremental availability (DPIA) period and is expected to return to sea this fall.
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