USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea (NNS) -- A group of seven leaders in business, industry, education and government from the Southern California area got underway with the crew of the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) as part of the "Leaders to Sea" program, July 31.
The Leaders to Sea program, sponsored by Commander, Naval Surface Forces, is designed to provide influential community leaders, educators, and business and industry executives with insight into the daily operations of a Navy ship at sea.
While on board, participants toured the ship, observed flight operations, received special briefings on the ship's capabilities and had lunch with the crew.
"I think it's important for the public to know how their tax dollars are spent and for them to know that they're getting their money's worth," said Mike Berentson, the director of military affairs for the San Diego Padres who took part in the program. "The Sailors work long hours and spend a lot of time away from home in order to ensure our nation and interests are protected."
Berentson, who once served in the Marine Corps, said his favorite part of the tour was watching the Navy helicopters practice their deck landing qualifications on board the ship.
"I had a great time and everyone involved was professional, knowledgeable and very accommodating," said Berentson. "The USS Makin Island seems like a squared-away ship and gives me a lot of confidence that the U.S. Navy is not only going to accomplish every mission but produce some great citizens who will make society stronger when they transition into the civilian world."
Other participants in the Leaders to Sea program said they also enjoyed the trip and opportunity to interact with the crew.
"The event was way above my expectations," said Russ Griffith, another participant in the program who works at the Commander, Naval Surface Forces headquarters.
Griffith said he has worked as a civil servant for more than 20 years and has been aboard several ships pierside, but never had the opportunity to get underway.
"The Navy defends our sea lanes, and more importantly, our coastal borders," said Griffith. "The protection the Navy provides our country and the ability to provide a formidable force throughout the world is the main component in keeping the USA safe in troubling times."
The goal of the Leaders to Sea program is for participants to experience Navy life first hand and develop a greater understanding of the various missions performed by the Navy on a daily basis. Participants are encouraged to share their experiences with family, peers, co-workers, employees and other individuals in their respective influence areas.
USS Makin Island recently returned from a seven-month deployment and was the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved more than $15 million in fuel costs and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island's maiden deployment prove the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.
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For more news from USS Makin Island (LHD 8), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.