ABOARD USS BLUE RIDGE AT SEA (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy and the other branches of the armed forces offer numerous benefits to young adults -- from money for college tuition to high-tech training and job security. For many of them, deciding what they want to do next week, let alone the next two to four years of their life, can be a daunting task.
One option for those who choose the Navy, is the Undesignated Seaman program. As an undesignated seaman, Sailors report to a ship or fleet unit after their graduation from boot camp and apprenticeship training.
Upon their arrival in the fleet, the majority of these Sailors are assigned to deck department. As members of "deck," as it's often referred, Sailors work long, hard hours in the upkeep and preservation of the ship, as well as standing the safety and security watches around the ship while it's underway. During watch shifts and the hours these Sailors are not at work, there is time to learn about the other rates it takes to run a Navy ship.
On average, an undesignated seaman can be a member of deck for 12 to 18 months. According to some of these undesignated seaman, the work is hard, but the experience gained is invaluable.
Seaman Andy Frazier, 21, of Hartselle, Ala., has worked in the Blue Ridge deck department for 18 months and currently is receiving "on-the-job-training" (OJT) for the quartermaster rating. Quartermasters are responsible for the ship's safety through skillful navigation.
"Being under instruction of the quartermasters has been the best time I've spent on board," said Frazier. "With this OJT, I feel I have a pretty good chance at passing the upcoming quartermaster's 3rd class petty officer exam," said Frazier.
Frazier said he has thought about other ratings, but for him "seeing is believing." Undesignated seaman stand watch as lookout, helmsman and messenger of the watch, watches primarily located on the ship's bridge where the quartermasters also stand watch.
"I've thought about becoming an intelligence specialist (IS), but I would like to strike for a rating I've seen and worked with first hand," said Frazier.
Moving up the enlisted ranks isn't Frazier's only goal.
"In the future, I want to put in an application for the Seaman to Admiral program, so I can earn a commission and become an officer."
Seaman Luis Moraza, of Orlando, Fla., has been in deck for 15 months and is now training to become an operations specialist (OS). Operations specialists operate radar, navigation and communications equipment in a ship's combat information center or on the bridge.
"I came to Blue Ridge as a seaman apprentice," said the 20-year old Moraza, "and I chose to strike for OS because I think it's challenging and has less manual labor than being a deck seaman."
For Seaman Khamsing Rasavong, 22, of Kerrville, Texas, his time in deck has helped him focus on his future after the Navy. Rasavong is training with the ship's storekeepers (SK).
"I want a job that I already know and will help me in the civilian world," said Rasavong, who added that his time in deck has helped him develop character.
"I think if you can work two years in deck, you can deal with anything," said Rasavong. "It's a real challenge everyday."
Although Rasavong is currently training to become a SK he still hasn't completely made up his mind to strike for the rate -- one of the benefits of being an undesignated seaman.
"I am still not 100 percent sure I'll become a SK. I have thought about going to school for Cryptologic Technician Interpretive (CTI) because I am fluent in Thai," he said.
"Coming in the Navy without a rate can be difficult," said Frazier. "Working as an undesignated seaman is tough, but you learn a little bit about all the rates aboard ship. I know (undesignated) Sailors like me know what it's like to be work your way up from the junior enlisted ranks and I'd like to think I work harder than those who might not know what it's like to sweat and exhaust themselves everyday. I think Sailors who work in deck as an undesignated seaman are better Sailors overall. I know it has made me a better Sailor."
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