Squadron in the Spotlight: VMFA 251

150416-N-SI600-301 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (April 16, 2015) – An F/A-18C Hornet, assigned to the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251, launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) launches an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the Rooks of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 137. Theodore Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Anthony Hopkins II/Released)

 The Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 251, embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), are a prestigious unit that date their formation to the beginnings of World War II.
    

     Initially founded as Marine Observation Squadron (VMO) 251 they were re-designated as a fighter unit by the war’s end. In 2001, the Thunderbolts deployed with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1 aboard TR and were the first Marine squadron to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom.

     “VMFA 251 has a proud history that began at Naval Air Station North Island in 1941 and has brought them around the world to Beaufort, South Carolina, today,” said Navy Capt. Benjamin Hewlett, commander, CVW 1. “The rich history of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Aviation is embodied in the Thunderbolts.”

     Lt. Col. Nicholas O. Neimer received the unit flag when he relieved Lt. Col. Joshua A. Riggs as the Thunderbolts commanding officer, May 31, 2015.

     “This is exactly what I expected out of this job,” said Riggs during the change of command ceremony. “I am torn in half leaving the team, but at the same time I know you are in great hands not only with my relief but with the whole staff top to bottom. Our leadership is ready to hit this thing out of the park and see it through to the end.”

     The Thunderbolts powered through the workup cycle and into deployment flying sorties and training alongside the other squadrons embarked aboard TR.

     “I joined the squadron roughly a year ago and I have had the privilege to observe these Marines through their workups and eventually deployment,” said Neimer. 

   
     “I have served with many Marine units in my 18 years and I can say, with authority, that some of the best Marines I have served with are [in VMFA 251] and they will continue to effectively and safely complete the mission as they have for the last year.”

 
     While a lot of work is done in maintenance and preparation, the real excitement of the job comes from launching jets from TR’s flight deck at speeds exceeding 100 MPH.

       “I would explain my job as being a football player about to go through the tunnel onto the field for the Super Bowl every night,” said Lance Cpl. Anthony Hopkins. “On night crew, you go out on the flight deck to relieve day crew, and almost immediately go to work launching and recovering aircraft. Imagine that you are thrown into the most intense aspect of this job ten minutes after coming into work, at night.”

       The Thunderbolts operate the F/A-18C Hornet, an earlier model of the successful airframe.

      “VMFA 251 is a group of highly motivated individuals who have been called to action by their country and we are here to get it on,” said Master Sgt. James Walker. “It has taken a lot of work and sacrifice to get where we are today and even though we fly an older model of airframe, the Hornet, we are no less ready to tackle our mission than our fellow squadrons.”

      A noncommissioned officer, or NCO, is an enlisted person who provides frontline leadership for their fellow Marines.

      “The NCOs of VMFA 251 are the backbone of this unit,” said Riggs. “They are the workhorses that make miracles happen on a daily basis and keep this squadron functioning to accomplish our mission day in and day out. They do it while training our young Marines, and they are the embodiment of our core values of honor, courage, and commitment.”

150531-N-WD161-259 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (May 31, 2015) – Marines from the Thunderbolts of Marine Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 251 participate in a change of command ceremony on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Lieutenant Colonel Joshua A. Riggs was relieved by Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas O. Neimer. Theodore Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class D’Artanyan Ratley/Released)

 

      The highly-trained Marines of VMFA 251 are top-notch multi-taskers who have wide-ranging skill sets required to execute their mission.

       “The Marines wear a lot of hats. For instance, you can compare us side-by-side to one of the other squadrons aboard and they will have about 50 more people than we do, and we are still considered full strength,” said Hopkins. “That means that our Marines need to be more adaptable and fill the roles that would be filled by more people.”

     Heritage and tradition are as embedded in the Marine Corps as in the Navy, and a sense of pride is an ever-present part of the Marines’ lives.

     “We are a proud branch and our pride is instilled from day one and we never want to lose it,” said Walker. “You could take any individual Marine and at the heart of their reasoning for joining it is that they are proud to serve their country.”

     Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).

     Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.

       Join the conversation with TR online at http://www.facebook.com/USSTheodoreRoosevelt and http://www.Twitter.com/TheRealCVN71.

                                      For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt, visit  www.navy.mil/local/cvn71/.

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Striking Success

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“Choose your rate, choose your fate,” a common saying on the deck plates of any vessel in today’s Navy. While Sailors choose their rate upon enlistment, there is a portion who enter the fleet undesignated. They stand watch, heave line, maintain equipment and complete the tough tasks of cleaning and painting to keep the ship looking her finest. After the work concludes, undesignated Sailors can search for a permanent job to “strike” into. These Sailors take their fate into their own hands as they strike their rate.    

     Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), strikers search for the rate they’re best qualified for by seeking mentorship and counseling from leaders that have been in their boots before. Two TR Sailors have gone above and beyond the expectations that were made for them as undesignated seamen, redefining the possibilities and avenues to success.    

     Senior Chief Personnel Specialist Troy Millare started his ascension through the ranks in 1992 as an undesignated seaman aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Guam (LPH 9).

     “I wanted a job and I thought that being an undesignated seaman was cool at the time,” said Millare. “It was a good job. I enjoyed doing outside physical labor and I really didn’t mind it at the time. It also gave me the opportunity to look at all the other jobs on the ship and try to strike for one that I was really interested in.”

     Undesignated seamen are part of the Professional Apprenticeship Career Track Program (PACT). Following basic training and a four-week apprenticeship school, PACT seamen check onboard to receive guidance from their chain of command and command career counselor on which rate best suits them.

     Millare spent two and a half years as an undesignated seaman before striking disbursing clerk (DK).

     “I learned a lot of things as an undesignated seaman,” said Millare. “Driving the ship, taking care of small boats and stuff like that. Once I got into a rating I enjoyed, I got to wear my first clean uniform and I got off the Deck [Department] watch bill. I got the opportunity to work in customer service as a DK. I thought it was a good move.”

     Lt. Nancy Helfrich has a similar story from when she entered the Navy as an undesignated seaman in 1996.

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     “It was hard. I was on a destroyer and there were only a handful of us,” said Helfrich. “I was chipping paint, driving the ship, standing lookout, but I liked being part of something so much bigger than myself. I never said that I was just going to do my time and get out.”

     Helfrich, assigned to the destroyer USS Briscoe (DD 977), was fixated on her goal to strike into the Navy’s medical field.

     “Everybody wanted me to strike their rate,” Helfrich said through her laughter. “I had my heart set on being a corpsman and being in the medical field so I just stuck to my guns. Corpsman is a rate that you have to go to A-school. A year and half later, I was on my way to A-school.”

     Fast forward to the present; Millare serves as Administrative Department leading chief petty officer and Helfrich is the ship’s nurse after rising through the ranks and earning her commissioning in 2008.      

     “It was a long way,” said Millare. “I have been in the Navy for 22 years now. I never thought I would be sitting here running the Admin Department. Choosing this rating led me to an opportunity to work for various types of commands and platforms. That’s one thing I really enjoy about my rating; that I can travel and be stationed at all types of different commands. I have had a very diverse career.”

     “I feel accomplished,” said Helfrich. “I had to work hard to become a corpsman, nothing was given to me. We all do not have the same experiences and opportunities in life so I feel like the Navy opened so many doors for me. I love the Navy. It has so much to offer and people need to take advantage and make the most of their career.”

   From painting bulkheads as an undesignated seaman to giving vaccines and drawing blood as a hospital corpsman (HM), Helfrich remembers both stages of her journey.

     “Both [boatswain’s mates] BMs and HMs have a special place in my heart,” said Helfrich. “I will never forget where I came from.”

     For more information on the striking process, contact your career counselor.     Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).

     Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.

 

Join the conversation with TR online at http://www.facebook.com/USSTheodoreRoosevelt and http://www.Twitter.com/TheRealCVN71. For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt, visit  www.navy.mil/local/cvn71/.

 

TR Mustangs: Earning Their Way Through the Ranks

 

Mustang pyramid

Rucking through the mountains of Afghanistan, scrubbing elbow deep in a scullery sink, recovering aircraft on the flight deck of a carrier in the world’s greatest Navy – the life of an enlisted Sailor is filled with views from the peaks of success and even valleys of failure. One breed of Sailors breaks away from the herd and finds themselves in places that perhaps they never imagined they’d be.

     “Oh, the places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss wrote these words at the introduction of one of his most legendary books of the same name.   The book is commonly referenced in cards and mementos gifted to service members during their military tenure. From the Rock of Gibraltar with shipmates in abundance to the top of the Burj Khalifa with liberty buddies, the places and relationships built during Naval career are invaluable and coveted for years.

   When Alexander Lamis pictured his life as a Sailor in the United States Navy, he may have imagined exotic foreign ports but he never foresaw a life in the Wardroom. Now serving as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) security officer, Lt. Lamis enlisted in the Navy in March 1995 as a master-at-arms.

Lamis   

  “I truly never envisioned that I’d make a career out of the Navy so I didn’t really ever think about commissioning,” Lamis said. “I’ve always tried to set myself up for success to make the highest rank possible but I definitely didn’t envision myself as a mustang. But it worked out that way and the rest is history.”

     The places mustangs go are of the exceptional sort. Cmdr. Michael Garber, TR’s gun boss, began his career as a seaman recruit and gave his interpretation of the spirit of the mustang that lives within about 80 officers aboard.

Cdr Garber

     “A mustang is a spirited horse,” said Garber. “It’s a very strong-willed and competent animal. A mustang can be hard to tame and at times it can revert back to its spirited ways. Sort of like an enlisted Sailor who goes on to make officer. That’s what we are. Mustangs: prior enlisted Sailors that commissioned to become officers.”

     Ensign Sequoia Youngblood began her career in 2000 as an information systems technician seaman recruit (ITSR). She attributes much of her success to the support she received from her mentors.

     “I had a lot of mentors at my first command and that was key,” said Youngblood. “I had to align myself on the path they laid before me, starting at ITSR on up through the ranks. Each mentor gave me a tool for my toolbox and built me up for success.”

     The Navy offers several commissioning opportunities to its enlisted community. Each opportunity is unique and tailored to ensure the Navy commissions the right Sailors with the right skill sets.

     The Seaman to Admiral-21 (STA-21) program, once referred to as the Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training (BOOST) program, is a commissioning program that provides an opportunity for highly motivated active duty enlisted personnel. The program offers an eight-week training course to provide Sailors with core fundamentals before sending selectees to a four-year college. The selectees receives full pay, allowances and benefits for their enlisted pay grades and are eligible for advancement while participating in the program. While obtaining their bachelor’s degree, service members are attached to a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) unit and participate in drills with their unit until graduation and commissioning.

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   Sailors with their bachelor’s degrees often take the Officer Candidate School (OCS) route on their path to butter bars. Applicants for OCS may request designation depending upon individual qualifications and available community designators. OCS is a 12-week program of intense officer training and indoctrination located at Officer Training Command (OTC), Newport, Rhode Island. Designed by Navy officers and educators, OCS provides a basic knowledge of the high-tech Naval establishment afloat and ashore. Training prepares candidates to assume the responsibilities of a Naval officer.

     Two TR Sailors most recently selected for commissioning are still hard at work in their enlisted roles. They decided to commission via the limited duty officer (LDO) and chief warrant officer (CWO) programs. Aviation’s Boatswain’s Mate (handler) 1st Class Nandesh Baliraj is slated to commission in December and will follow on to serve as a ship’s boatswain. Chief Culinary Specialist Karen Thompson was selected for chief warrant officer and will serve as a food service officer.

   The LDO and CWO programs provide commissioning opportunities to qualified enlisted personnel and CWOs. In order to be eligible for the CWO program, the applicant must be a chief or a board-eligible E6. Each LDO designation has specific applicant requirements depending on the community.

     LDOs are technically oriented officers who perform duties in specific occupational fields and require strong managerial skills. CWOs are technical specialists who perform duties requiring extensive knowledge and skills of a specific occupational field.

     Baliraj said it was humbling to be one of three Sailors chosen Navywide for his LDO program.

     “It felt like a great accomplishment especially since this was the second time I submitted a package,” said Baliraj. “I was on leave when I found out. I received a call and it really took a moment for it to all sink in but hard work and determination really do pay off. It’s always a good feeling to see your hard work recognized.”

   Always ready to serve his shipmates, Baliraj is looking forward to the opportunity to make a difference at the officer level.

   “Whether I’m in a situation to gain or not, I always lend a helping hand,” said Baliraj. “I’m always there to share what I know. Whatever I know, I pass it on. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t agree with but that’s all a part of being in the military. I always try to work through the bad and hold onto the good. I always try to take the negative and make it into a positive.”

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     Thompson picked up chief her first time up and thought her career path was sealed by the fouled anchors she dons on her collar insignia, but her evolution as a Sailor was not complete. Shortly after receiving her anchors, Thompson was selected for CWO.

   “I was shocked,” said Thompson. “I just picked up Chief this cycle. It really was bittersweet.”

     With tears in her eyes, Thompson described the irony behind her more recent success.

   “I just feel so much pride as a Chief,” she said. “April 1st is the Chiefs’ Mess’ birthday and I’ve only spent one as a Chief. I’ve always wanted to go the officer route. All my mentors pushed me to be a chief but I’ve always wanted to be an officer. I really do love being a chief and I didn’t expect to pick up CWO within the same year, but it is a blessing. It’s an overwhelming feeling.”

   Thompson and her husband met at her first command. He will be the first to render her honors at her commissioning.

   “I’ve been with my husband for thirteen years,” said Thompson. “We’ve made every rank together. When I made chief, that was the first time we didn’t make rank together and I made CWO immediately after. I wanted to know how he felt. He was very supportive. He told me, ‘you’re my wife, I’m very happy for you. Your success is my success.’ I wouldn’t have my first salute from anyone else in the world.”

   Navy mustangs hail from all sorts of humble beginnings that enlisted Sailors know all too well. Like their motto says, they’ve done it the hard way and earned their commission in countless working parties, through stripping decks and painting seemingly endless bulkheads. No matter how different the path, there is one major thing they all have in common; their unyielding spirit and the savior-faire that only the enlisted experience can provide. Despite the odds and despite each proverbial “no” that presents itself in a lifetime – these mustangs trailblaze through obstacles with relentless resiliency. All the places they go, they are a testament to where stout work ethic can take you.

     “I mean, what a ride,” said Garber. “What an opportunity. From E1 to chief petty officer to commander – I’ve got to do so many wonderful things at so many wonderful billets. But for me, walking around this ship, I love working with Sailors. Just knowing that we’re out there and that we were once enlisted, it’s a reminder to all of our Sailors that we walked in their shoes. The same opportunities that were presented to me are there for them. We’ve lived the enlisted life and dealt with the same things. But I’m here to tell you – the harder you work, the higher you get in rank and the better it gets.”

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Danica M. Sirmans, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

Join the conversation with TR online at http://www.facebook.com/USSTheodoreRoosevelt and http://www.Twitter.com/TheRealCVN71. For more news from USS Theodore Roosevelt, visit  www.navy.mil/local/cvn71/.

Sankofa: One Navy Chief Reaches Back, and Pays it Forward

“Sankofa” is a word and symbol that means to “return and collect it.” It comes from the Akan people of Ghana who use it as a warning. Sankofa is a reminder to search through the groves of the past and bring back lessons, principles and stories to plant the seeds for the future. The Akan adage is a cautionary tale; if one does not remember their humble beginnings, they are doomed to fail.

            The Sankofa is pictured as a bird whose head is faced in the opposite direction of his body and the bird carries an egg on his back that represents the past. The bird reaches back for the days gone by, symbolizing that even as one progresses, periodically one must make a point to return to history to make a better future.

            One of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt’s very own, “returned to collect,” some valuable lessons. Former plane captain, Chief Mass Communication Specialist Herbert Banks, went back to his roots with The Red Ripper Line Division of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 11.

 

150416-N-FI568-022 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (April 16, 2015)- A Sailor chains down an F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA) 11 on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor L. Jackson/Released)
 

            From Washington, D.C., Banks enlisted in the Navy, August 5, 1998, as an undesignated airman under the pretext he would be able to work for each work center to decide what job he would like to strike for. When he checked into his first command, he was in for a surprise.

            “I checked into VF 32’s Tomcat squadron after boot camp and was sent straight to the line shack to be a plane captain,” said Banks. “Most of your air rates spend time in the line shack before you head to their division, so that’s where I went first.”

            Banks admits his first tour was quite a rude awakening.

            “It’s a lot of hard work that I was not accustomed to. It wasn’t until the end of my time there that I truly appreciated the experience,” said Banks. “I was with VF 32 for three years, but for a city boy like me, those three years toting those chains and prepping that aircraft were definitely challenging.”

            Following his tour as a brown shirt, Banks became a photographer’s mate after striking into the rate. Since then photographer’s mates have merged with journalists, lithographer’s mates and draftsmen to become mass communication specialists.

Banks gradually climbed the ranks and pinned on chief’s anchors in 2011. Then, after serving as an instructor to MCs at the Defense Information School in Fort Meade, Md., Banks took orders to TR as the media department departmental leading chief petty officer (DLCPO). That is when fate and opportunity introduced themselves and Banks met VFA 11’s Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Thomas McVick.

            “I talk to VFA 11’s line division chief in the chiefs mess all the time,” said Banks. “When he first embarked, I saw his brown shirt and sparked a conversation up with him. Whenever I see a Sailor in a brown shirt in the [passageways] it means a little bit to me. I feel a lot of pride. So when I saw Chief McVicker down in the Chief’s Mess I asked him if he’d let me come up [to the flight deck] and get my hands dirty again.”

            McVicker was happy to have Banks spend a day with his squadron and said he shared his admiration for the men and women in brown jerseys.

            “The bedrock of success here in the Ripper Line Division is simple and clear; pride and professionalism,” McVicker said. “These values are immediately instilled into our Sailors on their first day in the Navy and they define who we are. I couldn’t be more proud of these young Americans. I appreciate Chief Banks taking the time to shine some light on my heroes.”

 

150427-N-ZF498-090 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (April 17, 2015) – A Sailor attached to the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Attack Squadron (VFA 11) ties down an F/A-18F Super hornet on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). Theodore Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony N. Hilkowski/Released)

             Before Banks re-joined the line shack crew for a day as a plane captain, he had one request.

            “I told Chief [McVicker] that I’d find a way to get from behind my desk on one condition,” Banks said through his laughter. “I had to have my own brown jersey again.”

            “It was nostalgic being back in that small shop,” he added. “There’s a bunch of people in a room almost the size of a jail cell. They’re coming and going, there’s night check and day crew. There’s a lot of moving parts: prepping gear, putting on float coats, signing off paperwork. It smells like fuel, oil and hard work.”

            Banks met with the crew on the flight deck and didn’t hesitate to jump right in, side by side with the other plane captains. He helped prepare the aircraft and conduct routine maintenance.

            “I got to hang out with the crew,” said Banks. “We prepped the jet but once the jet taxis to the catapult, the plane captains have to standby with the chains on their shoulders until the jet takes off. Sometimes you can have as many as 10 chains on at a time, weighing 10 pounds apiece. The younger guys were hesitant to let me hold the chains. A lot of them said, ‘No, Chief, I got it.’ But I wanted to feel like a line rat again! They were actually surprised. I helped one Sailor launch a jet and helped another recover a few.”

            The line shack ensures the airplane is airworthy and safe to operate before launching the multi-million dollar jet and its pilot off the flight deck. Plane captains play an integral role in the mission and have an incredible amount of responsibility.

            VFA 11 plane captain Aviation Ordnance Airman Blake Triplett doesn’t take the responsibility lightly.

            “It’s a family – it has to be,” Triplett said. “You can’t afford to not get along. We depend on one another.”

Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman William Moody, another VFA 11 plane captain, agreed that the squadron’s camaraderie is paramount and he attributes their morale to their leadership.

            “From our [leading petty officer] to our chief and the pilots – all of our leadership, they take really good care of us,” said Moody.

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Matthew Holland, also VFA 11 plane captain, said the temporary assigned duty position builds character.

            “We’re all different rates but being a plane captain really creates the foundation of whom you really are and who you’ll be in your rate. You have to earn your keep,” said Holland.

            Besides his duties as Media’s DLCPO, Banks serves as TR’s mentorship coordinator and what was supposed to be just a day on the flight deck turned into a day of mentorship as Banks offered some words to the crew.

            “As hard as the work was and as much as I may have hated it at the time, my time in the line shack is what shaped and molded me into who I am today,” said Banks.

“What I miss most is the camaraderie,” he added. “The teamwork in the line shack is like none other. Everyone is going through the same thing so you have to come together to persevere. That amount of time I spent as a plane captain was truly a beautiful time. We may have had our disagreements amongst each other but when it was time to step on that deck, we got the job done and we did whatever we had to do to help each other out.”

After reliving his time as a plane captain, Banks reminded the brown shirts that they are appreciated.

“A lot of people rely on those inspections, that maintenance and all of the surveys they do on the aircraft,” he said. “If those Sailors don’t have a certain amount of pride and respect for what they do, I just want them to know that I do.”

Banks “reached back,” and paid it forward. He said he was glad he was able to meet the Red Rippers of VFA 11 and hoped he was able to pass down some of the lessons he learned in the line shack.

“I appreciate Chief McVicker and the Red Rippers,” said Banks. “They’ve got a good crew up there and I hope they’ll have me back soon. I appreciate them for welcoming me and allowing me to relive the moments that I didn’t appreciate before. Being in the line shack gave me the work ethic I have, and I am the man I am today because of the time I spent as a brown shirt. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Danica M. Sirmans, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs

The Magic Man

There’s nothing mysterious about this magic man. He’s just plain talented. Watch as Jordan Smith dazzles with his sleight of hand while serving his nation aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt. (Video produced by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Flood and Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kris R. Lindstrom.)