NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- From Huntington to West Avenues, the streets of downtown Newport News bustle with busy Precommissioning Unit (PCU) Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors.
In two short years, the population of Navy men and women assigned to what will be America's newest aircraft carrier has grown to more than 2,400. It started with just one Sailor.
On May 26, 2000, Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul L. Fulsom reported to the Supervisor of Shipbuilding offices in Newport News, Va. as the first crewmember of Ronald Reagan.
When he reported the ship was still in dry-dock. "There was no island, the flight deck wasn't completed, and the bow hadn't been put on yet," he said.
As the first Ronald Reagan Sailor, Fulsom and his shipmates were setting the example for every Plankowner (the commissioning crew of a ship) checking into the new command. "Any kind of job we did or attitude we had was going to be an impression for the Sailors checking in," he said.
A PCU is responsible for creating virtually every program and training plan on the ship. Many of these programs and traditions will last throughout the 50-year life of the ship and the thousands of Sailors who will serve aboard USS Ronald Reagan.
One of these programs is the Command Advancement Program (CAP), which rewards Sailors by immediately advancing them to the next pay grade because of superior job performance. These Sailors do not have to wait to take an exam. The promotion is immediate.
Fulsom's chain of command acknowledged his performance by nominating him for the CAP board. "When I was nominated I felt happy that my department gave me the opportunity to excel and do things that (helped me) stand out," he said.
The board agreed with his department's choice, and PCU Ronald Reagan's Commanding Officer, Capt. J. W. Goodwin, advanced Fulsom to First Class Petty Officer.
As part of the selection process, a board of senior enlisted personnel from each of the ship's 18 departments interviewed each Sailor. "The department put a package together and let me know to be ready for anything. It was definitely the toughest competition I have ever been in," Fulsom said.
During a recent ceremony, Ronald Reagan crewmembers assembled under the Newport News Victory Arch where Fulsom and 11 other Sailors were advanced in rank by the commanding officer. The 11 other Sailors were advanced to the pay grades of Second Class and Third Class Petty Officers.
Though Fulsom is now one of thousands of PCU Ronald Reagan Sailors, he is still making an impression on new Sailors. "Being advanced at the ceremony gave those who witnessed the event an opportunity to see what hard work and dedication will do," he said.
PCU Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) will be commissioned in Norfolk May 10, 2003.
For more PCU Ronald Reagan news, visit the ship's NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.