I Have the Deck
Taking Charge on Nimitz
On the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), somewhere in the Arabian Gulf, Lt. j.g. Colleen M. Wilmington, a Leon, Kansas, native, has just assumed the officer of the deck watch. Now officially in charge of maneuvering the ship, she has taken the lead of an entire watch team and is the direct representative of the commanding officer.
Watchstanding is one of the most vital roles a Sailor is tasked with in the Navy. Day in and day out, many Sailors stand watch, becoming the eyes, ears and even the voice of the ship as the nation's bidding is carried out. It is an immense task, and it is common for a Sailor to have multiple watchstanding qualifications.
"I'm qualified on the bridge, from helm safety officer all the way through officer of the deck," said Wilmington. "I am the primary boat officer for this ship. I'm the locker officer. I also stand anti-terrorism watch and I recently qualified as non-nuclear EOOW [engineering officer of the watch]."
Though each watch has its own specific set of duties, all are governed by the same general orders. Wilmington embraces her role as a watchstander, and leads her Sailors to do the same.
"One of the basic general orders is to take charge of this post and all government property," said Wilmington. "For me, on any watch that I'm taking, government property includes each one of us, which means that when I take that role in any of my positions, my job is to fulfill the duties of that particular job while having overarching watch of everyone who stands with me."
One of the fundamental elements of watchstanding is trust. Sailors must trust the training they have received and be able to recall that training to stand their watches properly.
"I have to be able to trust them that they're standing the lookout," said Wilmington, explaining that Sailors are accountable to their shipmates. "And that trust between the captain, navigator and me is also a part of it."