ABOARD USS GEORGE WASHINGTON, At Sea (NNS) -- After only six months in the Navy, Quartermaster 3rd Class Chris Amorant of PCU Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) has put on a third class chevron, become a plankowner of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and is headed on a Mediterranean deployment with USS George Washington (CVN 73).
When GW returns, he will head to Reagan's new homeport of San Diego where he will embark on its maiden voyage in the Pacific.
It is more than many Sailors can accomplish and experience in so short a time. For some all this could end in burnout, but Amorant looks at all of these opportunities as a positive track that has been laid down for him.
"I would say I started life out cynical," the 26-year-old New Orleans native said. "I have been exposed to a lot of experiences. At 24, I started to look at the world in a different way. If you think right and do right, the right things will happen to you."
This attitude is a result of taking some hard knocks over the years and having to find the resolve to turn negatives into positives.
He enlisted in the Marines shortly after high school and became an infantry mortarman. After two years, he was discharged from the Marines for having flat feet and spent the next few years working for Fred Astaire Dance Studios as an instructor. He taught ballroom dancing, fox trot, waltz, salsa, tango, and worked several stints for Norwegian and Carnival cruise ships.
It was during these cruises that he learned Navy Quartermaster training is a valued commodity in the civilian world.
"The majority of the captains on the cruise ships were former quartermasters in the Navy or Coast Guard," he said. "They took the Coast Guard equivalent test for their licensing and now they make good money. Of course, with that comes the great responsibility of a ship."
But it wasn't the potential of someday having his own ship or making tons of money that compelled Amorant to rejoin the service. It was good old-fashioned patriotism and a desire to help his country.
Two days after Sept. 11, Amorant walked into the Marine recruiter's office and told them he wanted back in. His prior medical discharge was an immediate blockade, but even more discouraging was that the Marines were backed up for six months due to the massive enlistments following the attacks.
Refusing to give up, he called the Navy. He obtained a waiver for his flat feet and then it was just a matter of picking a job.
"The recruiters were pushing for me to go (master-at-arms), but I remembered my conversations with the cruise ship captains. I knew then what I wanted and they gave it to me, and it's been great ever since. I got to go straight to quartermaster 'A' school [at Great Lakes Naval Training Center] without going to boot camp, and I was capped to (Quartermaster 3rd Class) after finishing first in my class."
Following "A" school he took orders to the pre-commissioning unit of the Reagan. While being a plankowner of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier is an honor, a ship that doesn't leave port is not the best way for a quartermaster without qualifications to spend his time.
Reagan's answer is to send their quartermasters on temporary assigned duty (TAD) billets to forward-deployed ships to get as many of their qualifications completed as possible. This opportunity was welcome news by Amorant and GW's leading chief petty officer of Navigation, Chief Quatermaster (SW) Rodney Staten.
"We welcome the Sailors coming TAD," Staten said. "It helps us because on a ship of this magnitude, and especially in the quartermaster rating, it makes a lot of difference when you're able to have two Sailors on watch. Even if they're not qualified, there are so many things happening on the bridge that they can always help."
Staten added that, "It also helps the Reagan out. When they get commissioned they will be ahead of the game and not starting from scratch training their people."
Quartermaster 2nd Class (SW) Melanie McDaniel, Amorant's assistant leading petty officer on the Reagan, couldn't agree more with Staten, and she is equally grateful to have a sea going environment similar to her own ship to send Amorant to for training.
"The importance of getting our (Quartermasters) qualified is paramount," she said. "If we're not ready to take the watch and command our ship, there is no one to bail us out. Having qualified watchstanders is the main focus of a successful pre-commissioning unit."
Amorant has not let his lack of experience deter or intimidate him on the bridge. He knows that his primary mission is to get qualified and be squared away with something to offer when the Reagan gets under way. In the process, he gets a thrill out of working so close to the heart of the ship - the bridge.
For more PCU Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) go to www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76. For more USS George Washington (CVN 73) news, go to www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn73.