ATLANTIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Patrolling the waters around the globe, USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) leaves in its wake a trail of peace and good relations. Within the bulkheads that sustain this mission-orientated warship there are Sailors of a distinct category. These Sailors steer the ship, man the lookouts, work evolutions and maintain material readiness. They are proud. They are invaluable. They are unrated.
Unlike the majority of Sailors, those that swear into the Professional Apprenticeship Career Track (PACT) enter the Navy with no specific job or rate. PACT seamen are typically sent to work for deck department, where they get to earn their salt with one of the oldest rates in the Navy - boatswain's mate. Under the instruction of rated boatswain's mates, PACT seamen learn basic seamanship and sailorization. Seaman Adrian Balderrama from El Paso, Texas, is an unrated Sailor aboard the Truman.
"It has its pros and cons, being undesignated," Balderrama said thoughtfully. "The fact that you can explore other rates is a plus. I think it's a positive thing that you can see what else is out there, maybe something you haven't thought of before."
With ambitions of becoming a master-at-arms, Balderrama knows all the effort he expends in deck department will serve him later in both his personal and professional life.
"Working in deck is not an easy job," said Balderrama. "I feel like it has given me a strong back bone, and I know that if I can succeed here I can succeed anywhere else I choose to go."
While others seek their fortunes elsewhere, there are those who choose to remain in deck department and become a rated boatswain's mate. Boatswain's Mate Seaman Lisbeth Suarez has elected to join the fraternity of crossed anchors. With her experience as a PACT seaman, Suarez has a unique understanding of the boatswain's mate rate and the Navy.
"I came in with an open mind and made sure I did everything I was told," said Suarez. "I wanted to do my fair share of work, and I actually found myself enjoying what I was doing."
Now with over two years in the Navy, Suarez has no regrets, and is eager to be a positive influence and strong leader to incoming PACT seaman.
"If I could do it all over again, I would still swear in undesignated," affirmed Suarez. "Now that I'm a rated boatswain's mate, I'm part of the chain that deals with undesignated Sailors and I can be that person that guides them through their first experience in the fleet."
On the Truman and throughout all the ranks there are careers that have the origins as an PACT Sailor. Command Master Chief Charles Smith of the "Rooks" Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137 started his Navy career as an undesignated seaman. Twenty-four years later, Smith still recalls how challenging the work was and how the experience made him a more capable Sailor.
"My time in deck department as an undesignated Sailor taught me many lessons," said Smith, remembering his first command, the USS Coronado (AGF-11). "There was a lot of chipping, grinding, painting and deck preservation. Looking back, the hard work was good for me."
Smith speaks with PACT Sailors regularly and has noticed specific characteristics common to the unrated crew.
"Every undesignated Sailor I've had an interaction with has proven to be humble, hardworking and hard-charging," said Smith. "When undesignated Sailors get a rate they know how hard they had to work to get to where they are, and that makes them appreciate it all the more."
Smith believes it can unanimously be agreed that being a PACT Sailor is undoubtedly one of the more laborious tasks in the U.S. Navy. However, through the many trials and toils of undesignated life, Sailors get a chance to discover just what their passions are and what rate best suits them.
Smith theorizes that the old saying of "choose your rate, choose your fate" rings true once you are in the fleet, and coming in unrated just might give Sailors an advantage they would not otherwise have.
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For more news from USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn75/.