USS RONALD REAGAN, Arabian Sea (NNS) -- Five midshipmen from colleges across the United States arrived aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as part of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) summer cruise program, June 21.
The midshipmen will be aboard for more than a month and will rotate through several departments during their traditional "summer cruise", learning about shipboard operations and life as U.S. naval officers at sea.
"Having them on the ship is like a practical classroom experience," said Lt. Justin Wilson, Reagan's midshipmen program coordinator. "They learn about the Navy from books, but they don't really know what it's like until they show up to a 'real' ship and start doing the 'real' thing."
Since arriving, they received training in a variety of job specialties throughout the ship including the bridge, Combat Direction Center (CDC), Damage Control Central, Air department, and Security department.
They have also stood bridge watches including junior officer of the watch, helmsman and lookout, as well as assisted the air defense weapons coordinator in the CDC.
"The transition from the classroom to the ship has been a very interesting road," said Midshipman 1st Class Marissa Jimenez, a senior at Prairie View A&M University. "I am somewhat accustomed to ship life due to my previous midshipmen cruises, but neither of them can compare to coming aboard the Reagan. Being on this carrier has been an exhilarating experience."
"This is my first time on an aircraft carrier," said Midshipman 2nd Class Forbes Dever, a junior at Miami University of Ohio. "There is always something going on. The next door or hatch always leads to something different."
To help ease the transition, midshipmen are assigned "running mates", either junior officers or petty officers, to help them get accustomed to the ship and become an active part of the Ronald Reagan crew.
This arrangement helps second class midshipmen learn about the enlisted side of the Navy, which is knowledge they will need to properly manage a division when they become officers. First class midshipmen are mentored by junior officers on how to be effective officers.
"Being a running mate is an awesome experience," said Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Jason Friel, a Reagan running mate. "We serve as mentors and we try to show them how to get involved with the division for when they become division officers."
"It's interesting to see the things we learn in school," Dever said. "It has been exciting seeing all the navigation charts and systems being used firsthand after studying it in a navigation class last semester."
The midshipmen are assigned a personnel qualification standard (PQS) to complete while aboard to ensure they work in a variety of departments and stand watches throughout the ship. The PQS gives a brief, but comprehensive framework for exposure to aircraft carrier life.
When their time aboard Ronald Reagan is done, midshipmen will take the lessons learned and return to college with a better understanding of life at sea aboard a deployed warship. This will also better prepare them for their future commission.
"The Ronald Reagan gives them the perfect opportunity to learn," Wilson said. "What better place is there to learn firsthand than a ship at sea? You can't get any better than that."
Ronald Reagan CSG is comprised of Ronald Reagan, guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, which includes guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88). Embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 14 includes the "Black Knights" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 154, the "Argonauts" of VFA-147, the "Blue Diamonds" of VFA-146, the "Death Rattlers" of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, the "Black Eagles" of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the "Cougars" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 139, the "Providers" of Carrier Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) 30 and the "Black Knights" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron (HS) 4.
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