Chicago Educators, Leaders Visit the Fleet

Story Number: NNS110324-12Release Date: 3/24/2011 4:03:00 PM
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By Lt. Jeffrey S. Gray, Chief of Naval Personnel-Diversity Directorate Public Affairs

SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A group of educators and community leaders from Chicago had an opportunity to tour various Navy commands and get underway aboard a fast attack submarine during an orientation visit in San Diego, March 8-10.

The group was comprised of educators from Chicago Public Schools, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the City Colleges of Chicago, along with influencers from the Chicago Defender Charities, the Chicago Community Trust, and the Society of African-American Professionals.

The visit was a result of a partnership between Navy Recruiting Command and Navy City Outreach designed to give influential educational and civic leaders a glimpse of life in the U.S. Navy so that they can be better prepared to discuss Navy opportunities with youth they come in contact with. The visit also served as a Navy awareness tool, ensuring these leaders see first-hand the training, equipment and facilities available to those in the Navy.

The first leg of the trip afforded the group an opportunity to meet with Capt. Adam Curtis, commanding officer of the Navy Special Warfare Center. At the Special Warfare Center, the group was introduced to the U.S. Navy SEALs by way of a video entitled "Mental Toughness." The video portrayed initial SEAL training as extremely demanding, both mentally and physically, to produce the best maritime warriors.

According to Curtis, with the demand for unconventional warfare to counter terrorist threats, the need to increase the number of Navy SEALs is a high priority. However, he noted the Navy SEALs have traditionally had a high attrition rate in the recruitment and training process.

"We're always on the lookout for the talented athlete and have seen an increase in the number of volunteers wanting to become SEALs, especially due to our partnership with Navy Recruiting Command," said Curtis. "We've been targeting our outreach efforts to identify and encourage the right type of young men to pursue and become a part of our special group. Our outreach efforts have now made it competitive to become a Navy SEAL, both from inside and outside the Navy."

The group also visited the Pacific Beacon, a new resort-style residence hall for single Sailors that opened in 2009. The stop at Pacific Beacon provided the group an opportunity to glimpse into the quality of life young Sailors can experience.

The facility boasts a hotel-style lobby; Sky Terrace with resort-style heated pool and hot tub; and a rooftop lounge with fire pits and barbecues. Other on-site amenities range from three fitness centers totaling 9,000 square feet, retail and dry cleaning services to a Wi-Fi cafe; recreational and educational facilities, and storage units.

Rounding out the first day, the group toured the Submarine Learning Center. The Center is responsible for all submarine training curriculum, training delivery methodologies, and for developing and maintaining professional development continuums for undersea warfare job specialties. The group had an opportunity to experience what it's like to drive a nuclear submarine. In addition, they observed how submariners train to fight fires and fix leaks aboard ship, especially when thousands of gallons of water pour into various submarine spaces.

On the second day, the group embarked USS Albuquerque (SSN 706) for a day-long underway period. During their brief journey, the group experienced what life is really like on a U.S. Navy fast attack submarine and sampled the culinary fare Sailors eat while at sea.

According to Robert Howard, former president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago, the trip gave him an appreciation for the submarine crew.

"The cruise highlighted the complexities of operating a nuclear submarine, the education and training requirements, and the youthfulness of the crew," said Howard. "I now have an even higher level of respect for the Navy and its mission."

On the final day, the group visited and toured the state-of-the-art simulator used to train Sailors for the newest ships in the Navy-Littoral Combat Ships USS Freedom (LCS 1) and USS Independence (LCS 2), and also toured the USS Pinckney (DDG 91). The highlight of the day for many, however, was a visit with Chicago-native Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, commander, Naval Surface Forces.

Curtis provided an overview of the mission and purpose of U.S. Naval Surface Forces, Navy surface forces currently deployment status, and local community outreach efforts.

He also addressed other fleet-wide issues including prioritizing readiness issues with current global issues, Navy support for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs, as well as diversity initiatives, among others.

For many in this group of educators and community leaders, it was the first time they had any direct experience with what the Navy does on a daily basis. The impact of the orientation visit was apparent from the two remarks educators offered of how they gained a new appreciation for the mission of the Navy, the opportunities it presents for young men and women looking for careers after graduation from their respective academic institutions.

"The U.S. Navy is an outstanding career option for major and minority college students providing them solid financial security and a life-long learning environment," said Gerald A. Smith, Associate Director of Minority Affairs, Minority Engineering Recruitment and Retention Program, at the University of Illinois, Chicago.

"The challenge will be communicating the opportunities in a way that makes sense. If I can identity academic and physical excellence in a student, I would want that student to be fully aware of their opportunities. With more than 100,000 diverse students in the City Colleges of Chicago, I feel that we have an opportunity to make an impact," said Mike Davis, Vice Provost for STEM at the City Colleges of Chicago.

The mission of Navy City Outreach is to build strong relationships and social networks with key influencers (educators, civic, government, and business leaders) within targeted cities across the country. The purpose for creating these social networks is to build a community of people who share an interest in the values and mission of the U.S. Navy, and a sincere desire to encourage youth from diverse backgrounds to pursue higher education and undergraduate degrees in the STEM fields.

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