SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A foundry is a place that, if interpreted according to its original meaning, should invoke images of steel workers, blacksmiths or even dwarves from a J.R.R. Tolkien novel toiling away in molten hot spaces, creating and shaping metal from pre-conceived casts.
To nearly 60 fortunate, hand-selected, Navy 1st class petty officers and two Air Force tech. sergeants from Navy Region Southwest (NRSW) and surrounding areas, "The Foundry" represents another meaning. It is an opportunity to gain leadership training from some of the regions and, in fact, some of the Navy's top leaders.
Given by active duty, retired and community leaders, the event officially kicked off Oct. 18 when the Sailors and their mentors moved aboard the storied World War II-era aircraft carrier, USS Midway (CV 41). The Foundry is scheduled to last five days.
"You come here and you think, 'Oh the Midway,' everyone comes here to see the history-right now we're part of history," said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Lawrence Coates, assigned to Fleet Combat Camera, Pacific. "It's a once in a lifetime experience to say 'hey, I slept on the Midway for a week,' and that's pretty cool if you think about it."
Midway, named for the famed World War II battle, was commissioned just eight days after the war ended. She was the first of her kind, the lead ship of her class and remained the largest ship in the world of any kind for nearly 10 years. Midway was also the longest serving Navy ship of the twentieth century, serving 47 years. She saw action from just after World War II through Vietnam and on up to her service as the flagship in the Arabian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, before being decommissioned and now serves as a museum ship in San Diego.
Beyond the sleeping arrangements, the group of trainees can expect an event-filled week with engaging training and stimulating conversation.
Master Chief Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Joseph Squire, an organizer with The Foundry, said that while people going through are already leaders, this training will help them become better leaders through contact with keynote speakers and developing interactions they can build on.
"It gives them access to personnel that I don't think they would normally meet on a regular basis," he said, noting that the Sailors will have an opportunity to speak to a large number of military, local community and retired Navy leaders. "They're going to talk to retired force and fleet master chiefs, they're going to have a panel with them. They're going to be able to talk to them and have great discussions; back and forth discussions with a retired master chief's panel."
The attendees can expect a variety of events ranging from conversations with a POW survivor, retired command master chiefs, former attendees, community leaders and even the President and CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego, Chris Van Gorder.
The Foundry chairman, Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician, Dean Ferguson, said that one thing that makes these lectures so special is the fact that all the speakers volunteered their time to speak, indicating that they are more invested in what they are sharing, because of that.
"It makes it more personal," said Ferguson. "People are more apt to actually latch on to what's being said and take it and take it with them themselves."
In addition to the many speakers, the attendees can also look forward to 'fireside talks' with the mentors and continual hands-on guidance.
Squire values the hands on training and having the attendees move aboard Midway.
He said it's great "having that one-on-one time with their mentors, having them here throughout the day to talk about anything they want to with their mentors, and they're on board the ship," Squire said. "They're constantly having access to someone they can talk to about leadership."
Admission to The Foundry, though open to any E-6 in the region, is a highly selective process with only 50-60 attendees accepted to one of the biennial trainings and only 10 mentors, who also need to apply.
"Being a mentor is one thing, but I also get something from it," said Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Mark McKnight, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Expeditionary Support Unit (EOD ESU) 1 and first time mentor for the program. "As much as I can impart my experience from what I had growing up, I get a chance to get their experiences back there too and still get a chance to learn from it. It's a reciprocated leadership."
McKnight is not the only one eager to learn though as many attendees expressed their hopes for the program.
Coates said, "I'm into the whole, self-improvement leadership thing. So I think this is one of those venues where I can sharpen my tools and have more tools in my tool box to go and mentor Sailors."
Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elizabeth Merriam, assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego added to that and said, "I've never been an LPO (leading petty officer) before. So actually getting a chance to build my skills [is important]. I'm used to being independent duty. I want better leadership because my [Sailors] deserve better leadership."
While the future has yet to be written, it is clear that the group of enlisted leaders at The Foundry in Navy Region Southwest is dedicated to forging, shaping and molding their replacements, the future of our enlisted Navy.
For more information about The Foundry, please visit www.thefoundry365.org.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element, visit www.navy.mil/local/npasehq/.