WATERS NEAR OKINAWA (NNS) -- Recruits new to the Navy have the option to select many different rates, but some choose to join undesignated, making them a seaman, fireman or airman. Joining the Navy without a rate gives those Sailors an opportunity to explore career options and find what best suits them while in the fleet.
Seaman Devon Santos, from New Bedford, Mass., joined the Navy in 2012 and quickly found that his options were limited when it came to selecting a rate.
"When I looked at the list of rates, I really wanted to become a cryptologic technician networks (CTN)," said Santos. "My recruiter told me that my job options were seaman, fireman, and logistics specialist, but my heart was set on becoming a CTN. He went on to say that if I selected undesignated seaman and worked really hard, I would have a chance to become a CTN when it came time to applying for a rate."
After graduating from Recruit Training command at Great Lakes, Ill., Santos moved on to deck seaman "A" school and was selected for orders to the U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) in Yokosuka, Japan.
"I came to the ship with a pretty open mind," said Santos. "I didn't want to get myself down because I came into the Navy without a rate. I just wanted to experience everything for myself and not let any preconceived notions about being undesignated affect me."
In addition to learning his way around the massive ship, Santos spent the first few weeks familiarizing himself with safety briefs, underway replenishment (UNREP) details, and watches that stretch from bow to stern and bridge to boat deck.
"My favorite part is standing watch on the bridge and driving the ship," said Santos. "There are some days that start with an UNREP, go to work, have watch, roll into a general quarters drill and then go back on watch."
Santos never lost sight of his goal of becoming a CTN, and occupied his time getting qualified on the ship and working hard at his job. In just eight short months on board George Washington, Santos became a qualified Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) and Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS).
"I've always been told that in order to stand out, I need to work as hard as I can to accomplish my goals," said Santos. "Even before I stepped foot on board, it was my goal to get qualified in ESWS and EAWS as quickly as possible."
Having a stong work ethic is not the only thing that drives Santos' motivation to succeed.
"I have a 5-year-old daughter back home to think about and a grandmother that has always been my biggest supporter," said Santos. "She's always telling me to keep my eye on the prize. I've carried that sentiment with me all my life."
After almost two years on board George Washington and many attempts to strike a rate, Santos finally received the news he'd been waiting for.
"When I received the message that I'd been selected to become a CTN, I almost cried," said Santos. "I have been working toward this since I joined the Navy, and at certain points in the process, it would have been very easy to lose sight of the end goal. I'm very grateful to everyone who has helped me in the process."
In September, Santos will serve his last days aboard George Washington before attending CTN "A" scool at Pensacola, Florida.
"It's been a priviledge serving aboard George Washington," said Santos. "I'm not going to say it was always perfect, but I think my time in deck department gave me a work ethic that I will take with me as I move on to the next part of my career."
George Washington and its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 5, provide a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interest of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
For more news from USS George Washington (CVN 73), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn73/.