SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Active-duty and retired aviation boatswain's mates from across the nation gathered in Silverdale, Wash., Aug. 5-9 to attend the Aviation Boatswain's Mates Association's 32nd annual professional working group conference.
The annual symposium consists of workshops, guest speakers, and ceremonies that are directed not only to the AB community, but carrier aviation professionals as well.
Founded in 1974, the ABMA united to support and develop naval aviation safety and to ensure the perpetuation of camaraderie among aviation boatswain's mates.
The theme of this year's symposium, "Heritage to Future," emphasized the progress and success of ABMA's founders.
"We are today where the retirees had envisioned our rate going," said Yaskin. "We've come a long way in forty years, and if we've come this far, how much further can we go? Could it mean that twenty years from now we could have holograms directing aircraft on the flight deck?"
"The workshops are the key element," said retired Lt. Mike Yaskin, director of planning for this year's symposium. "They solicit for, and keep everyone informed of, the agendas affecting the fleet. If an answer can't be satisfied within a workshop, it's sent to upper level platforms. It's a method that's proven itself effective and has withheld the test of time."
The workshops also provided interesting insight to junior personnel who attended the conference.
"They covered everything right down to improving the way we strip the deck," said Airman Michael Gardner, one of the many Sailors from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) who volunteered to help out at the symposium.
Both officer and enlisted, senior and junior Sailors from the Vinson helped plan, organize and staff the symposium.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class (AW) Amberly Wallace said she walked away with a great deal of gratitude after helping out.
"I just set things up and sold tickets, but it gave me a chance to talk to the older, retired ABs and hear them tell stories about how different the Navy was thirty or forty years ago ... the AB community is like one big family, and it's nice to see people who have been out for thirty years still care about people like me who have only been in for five," she said.
Wallace became a member of the ABMA three months ago, because she felt that her membership and attendance at the symposium was an important aspect of being active in her rate.
"I've seen how this keeps people connected and lets us relive the past and keep it alive for people like me," Wallace said. "I've never heard so many sea stories in my life."
Although the primary objective of the symposium focused on workshop agendum, reuniting with old shipmates was likely the most enjoyed part of the symposium.
"It's like a big high school reunion," said Airman Tony Brotherson, another Carl Vinson volunteer. "It seemed like everyone knew each other, especially the senior guys."
An awards banquet took place Friday evening where guest speaker Capt. Brian Neunaber, CVN 70's air boss, thanked ABs for their dedication in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and reminded each member that their efforts never go unnoticed.
After the dinner, several aviation boatswain's mates and supporters of the association received recognition. Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Equipment) 1st Class (AW/SW) Jon Clark and Carl Vinson's Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Glenn Harrison received the traditional blue blazers awarded to the 2002 Aviation Boatswain's Mate of the Year for Atlantic and Pacific fleets, respectively.
The ABMA, friends and family, wrapped up the week's events Saturday with a picnic at Camp McKean in nearby Bremerton.
For more news from USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), go to their custom Navy NewsStand Web page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn70.