USS OAK HILL, At Sea (NNS) -- Twenty-four Sailors aboard USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) were frocked to the next pay grade during a ceremony aboard the ship June 5.
Oak Hill's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Daniel Blackburn, gave permission for the Sailors to wear the next higher rank, while more than 100 crew members gathered to congratulate them on reaching this career milestone.
"It feels awesome," said newly frocked Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Sean Pepe, of San Diego. "I didn't think I would make it because the advancement rate was so low, but we did a lot of studying and I had a lot of people on the ship help me out. I feel on top of the world right now."
For some, advancing to the next pay grade could possibly be a career-changing event.
"Honestly I was on my way out of the Navy in October." said frocked Information Systems Technician 1st Class Jonathan Cunha, from the Pocono's in Pennsylvania. "Now picking up first, I feel as if it was a sign for me to stay in and further my career as an IT [information systems technician]. I was starting to lose faith, and thought I wasn't going to make it."
Of course, advancement comes with more responsibility - a challenge Cunha welcomes.
"I'm ready to handle the added responsibilities," said Cunha. "I'm also a bit nervous about what more is expected of me. I guess only time will tell as to how well I can handle everything thrown my way."
Oak Hill is currently deployed for Southern Partnership Station '09 deployment. The ship is expected to return in late August.
For more news from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/cusns/.