NORFOLK (July 30, 2014) – The air swirls with dust as Sailors sweep a blanket of dirt behind a Habitat for Humanity Restore, a non-profit home improvement store and donation center. Boisterous laughter fills the air as Michael Judge stacks and organizes tiles. As the hot sun beats down, Judge wipes the sweat from his brow but cannot wipe the smile off of his face.
Religious Programs Specialist (RP) 2nd Class Michael C. Judge, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt’s (CVN 71) community relations (COMREL) coordinator, has participated in COMREL events for nearly his entire time aboard TR. Judge enjoys helping those in need because he sees a little bit of himself in them.
“After college, I worked as a corrections officer in a jail for five years. It was good money but I knew it was something that I did not want to do for the rest of my life. After the jail, I worked as a contractor for two years. During that time there wasn’t much work, and money was very tight,” said Judge.
“It was tough. I lost my apartment and had to move back home. I had bills to pay that I wasn’t able to pay. It was depressing,” he sighed. “It was during that time that I got close to God, and it really made me want to do something to help people so they don’t end up in the same situation as me.”
Judge wanted to go back to school and he decided the Navy could help him do that, as well as provide him numerous other opportunities.
“I joined the Navy to see the world, finish my education and have adventures,” said Judge. “People said the Navy was looking for people and I needed a job so I could pay bills and study. It was at that point that I chose the Navy.”
Judge’s interest in religion and his desire to help others pushed him toward becoming a Navy chaplain.
“I was looking toward being a chaplain, but I realized that you had to have a degree and former experience as a chaplain. So I couldn’t do that but I asked one of my friends who was already in the Navy if there was something else that tied into religion. He said I could be a religious programs specialist. He said that they were basically a chaplain’s assistant. So that’s why I chose RP (religious program specialist),” said Judge.
After joining the Navy and reporting to TR, Judge discovered COMRELs were a chance to give back to the community.
“One day, my RP2 told me that I had to do a COMREL. I had no idea what that was and he told me that it was volunteer work,” said Judge.
Judge participated in two COMRELs that changed his outlook and gave him a better perspective on his job.
“The first COMREL that I did was stuffing scarecrows with straw for Halloween. It was for the children in the area and it was really fun. The second was at Hampton University where we laid wreaths on veteran’s tombstones, and that one was amazing,” said Judge.
“My mom is the one that instilled in me the want to help others and to be thankful for what I have,” said Judge.
Judge is now TR’s COMREL coordinator, responsible for all the COMRELs that TR’s crew volunteer for.
“For COMRELs, he calls everybody himself and tries to set up five COMRELs a week. He’s very motivated,” said Religious Programs Specialist Seaman Nicholas Rospos.
Rospos has known Judge for his entire Navy career. They went to boot camp, A-School and their first command together.
“He’s a really happy person. He loves to help people out,” said Rospos. “He dedicates his weekends and liberty to helping everybody else out so it’s like that is his main purpose.”
Judge pays it forward, hoping his example inspires Sailors to volunteer.
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kris R. Lindstrom, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs
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