PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Californian business, education and community leaders visited USS Makin Island (LHD 8) as part of the "Leaders to Sea" program, Feb. 10.
The group arrived by helicopter while the ship was operating off the coast of Southern California.
This is the program's first visit since its recent program overhaul. The last event was in 2012.
"Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces/Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, saw the value in breathing life back into the program," said Mike Raney from the Public Relations Office at Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet. "While he is proud of the surface force and all his team accomplishes every day, he realized after encounters with civilian executives is an excellent opportunity to showcase the capabilities of our Navy and the quality of our Sailors and Marines."
The Leaders to Sea program is designed to provide influential community leaders, educators, and business executives an opportunity to observe daily operations of U.S. Navy ships at sea. The program encourages participants to share their experiences with family, peers, co-workers, employees and other individuals in their respective influence areas.
Raney said, "Visitors gain a lot more context by seeing our Sailors in action, rather than trying to explain daily operations to somebody with little to no Navy exposure."
Makin Island's executive officer Capt. Mark Melson and Command Master Chief Larry A. Lynch greeted the group on the flight deck. Capt. Jon Rodgers provided a bridge view of the capabilities of Makin Island while conducting simultaneous well deck and flight deck operations.
The group's time aboard included a tour of Makin Island's medical facility and gym, observing flight operations, meeting the bridge team, and taking part in a luncheon with Makin Island Sailors on the mess decks.
"The first thing I noticed when we came on board was how clean the ship was," said Al Love, from San Diego, director of College, Career and Technical Education for San Diego Unified School District. "I didn't expect that at first and it shows the pride the crew has for the ship. Walking through the ship, I was inspired by the dedication, focus, and pride that the Sailors had in their work. As someone in education, it was really great to see and talk to so many young people with such respect, direction, and focus because of their experience in the military."
Other participants in the Leaders to Sea program expressed their appreciation of Sailors and what they do.
Richard Azarloza, managing director at Covington Capital Management, from Porter Ranch, California, said, "It's amazing to see the joy and proficiency these service members have in doing their jobs. I'm thankful to have had this experience and have tremendous gratitude to all of the service members for being here."
During lunch on the mess decks, the Leaders at Sea participants shared a meal and some conversation with Makin Island Sailors.
"They were really excited to be here and were incredibly interested in what we do on Makin Island," said Personnel Specialist Seaman Lexus Coleman, from Chicago. "It was a privilege for me to be able to talk to them about my ship and my shipmates and all the work we do when we're out at sea."
Coleman was also appreciative of what the participants had to say about their experience in the military.
"For me, it was great to hear them tell me that my experience in the military, the work ethic and skills I've learned, are setting me up for success for the rest of my life," said Coleman. "It was cool to hear that from civilians that have reached such high levels in their fields."
After the tour, the group boarded a helicopter and flew back to Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego.
Makin Island is currently operating off the coast of Southern California in the basic phase of the ships training cycle in preparation for a regularly scheduled deployment later in the year.
For more news from USS Makin Island, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/lhd8/.