NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) attended a Mustang Officer panel at Huntington Hall, April 18.
The idea stemmed from a desire to give back to the crew in a way that would educate and inform Sailors about commissioning career paths.
"When I checked onboard the GW in July of 2017, I asked my fellow Mustangs what we do to give back to the GW Sailors in the way of mentorship," said Cmdr. Edward Raisner, George Washington's strike operations officer. "I learned about the successful career fair the association held during the summer of 2017. I think those types of events are critical to our success in retention and ensuring our Sailors understand the benefits of being promoted through the ranks."
The open-forum discussion kicked off with each Sailor standing to introduce themselves, allowing the panel to gauge the interests and desired communities they hope to enter.
Introductions by each of the panel members followed, allowing Sailors to get insight of each member's career background and different types of duties they've performed. They also shared insight about their jobs, what it took to get there, along with one Sailor who is currently going through the transition.
"I applied three years in a row before I was selected," said Chief Personnel Specialist Tiffany Jordan, education services office leading chief petty officer. "Sometimes, I would change my personal statement, based on feedback. I would say I did about 22 versions of that statement over the course of three years. I re-did my application a couple of times based on corrections or recommendations, and then the interviews, which were the most challenging part, gave me the opportunity to let my interviewers know why I wanted to be an Admin (Administration) LDO (limited duty officer) and why I felt best fit for it."
During the panel, several of the officers stressed the importance of becoming knowledgeable of the requirements to qualify for their desired community. They also gave insight on the restrictions put on certain designators and what diverse opportunities are out there for others.
"The most challenging part about the whole process was getting all of the feedback from different Officers who I spoke with," said Jordan. "Everyone had their own input and opinions on what makes an LDO, in my case, and what I needed to be doing to get myself there. Not everyone can follow the same path and that was something I had to show those who were interviewing me. My own experiences have helped me be successful in my career thus far and I had to show them that my background would make me a great admin officer."
Jordan also said it's important for Sailors to know what options are available to them when looking into officer programs or furthering their career in general. She also said these panels allow Sailors to ask more questions, learn more about the programs and give them a chance to get familiar with their program of interest by speaking with an officer from their desired community.
"I think the best part about this whole thing was that the officers on the panel kept their word and provided me with more details about creating my package following the event," said Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Tennison Dawson, an event attendee. "There was a lot of good information put out and lots of useful feedback from the Officers."
Cmdr. Raisner shared his advice for Sailors who may not be sure if pursuing a commissioning is for them.
"I urge you to assess where you are in your life, both personally and professionally," said Raisner. "Ask yourself where you see yourself in five, 10 and 20 years, then compare that to your current skills, level of education and personal motivation. If they align, press on with your current goals. If you cannot see a way from where you are today, to where you want to be, find a mentor. Your mentor doesn't have to be an Officer. Your mentor should be successful in the direction you want to pursue."
A Mustang can be a chief warrant officer, limited duty officer, staff corps officer, restricted line officer or an unrestricted line officer, depending on their particular situation.
"I would definitely tell them to look into the program they have interest in, look at the requirements, and talk to those who are currently in those designators, and then, think about it," said Jordan. "This isn't just a means for fast promotion, or about money, which is often times why Sailors say they're interested. You have to ask yourself what you can do for the Navy, for your Sailors, your family and yourself. If your heart isn't 100 percent in it, you will have a hard time applying and getting through the process."
Becoming a Mustang is a process that both Jordan and Raisner agree, takes some self-reflection as well as proper mentorship.
"As leaders, regardless of rank, accession type, warfare pin or collar device, we should make ourselves available to Sailors and take time to give back," said Raisner. "I have yet to meet a Mustang that did not have someone in their past that assisted them in their personal journey to their commission. In my case, I had several chief petty officers, two lieutenants and a lieutenant commander provide me leadership, advice and mentorship that resulted in my commission and subsequent graduation from flight school. Yes, pursuing a commission is on the individual, however, often times Sailors are apprehensive to approach an officer, especially senior officers."
George Washington's Mustang Association is comprised of approximately 70 officers, all of which are contributing to the successes of the ship, promoting and educating Sailors of all ranks.
"Everyone on this panel worked really hard to get where they are," said Cmdr. Mike Windom, George Washington's maintenance officer. "If you aren't tailoring your efforts toward the particular program that you're applying for, you're wasting your time. Know what you want to do. Know your goals. It's an accountability aspect once you put on this uniform and as you move through the ranks."
George Washington continues to do her part in helping enlisted Sailors transition into commissioned officers by holding officer panels such as this one throughout the year. Sailors of any rank can begin working toward their goal of becoming an officer as long as they remember it is never too soon to get started.
For the most current information concerning open designator codes, visit the LDO/CWO officer community manager website at http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers npc/officer/communitymanagers/ldo_cwo/pages/references.aspx and click on the LDO and CWO designators link.
For more information, visit www.navy.mil, www.facebook.com/usnavy, or www.twitter.com/usnavy.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.