US Navy Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier Breaks Advancement Records

US Navy Nimitz-Class Aircraft Carrier Breaks Advancement Records

USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) produced record-breaking promotion numbers with the release of the results from the Fall 2011 Navy-wide Advancement Exam, Nov. 18.

The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, which is wrapping up its first operational deployment, advanced 432 Sailors to first, second and third class petty officer, nearly 200 more than promoted off the previous cycle. In addition to breaking the ship’s own advancement record, George H.W. Bush also experienced the highest promotion of all carriers in the past seven years with not only its total number but also its 30.3 percent advancement rate.

“Our Sailors truly connected the importance of studying to the results of Perform-to-Serve and the Enlisted Retention Boards,” said Command Master Chief David Colton. “We provided the avenue through some creative training and incentive programs, but our Sailors were the ones who really put forth the time and effort to set themselves up for success.”

One big incentive came in the form of a personal challenge from the ship’s commanding officer, Capt. Brian “Lex” Luther. More than 240 Sailors advanced off the Spring 2011 exam, and during an all hands call, Luther offered a 96-hour special liberty if at least 275 Sailors advanced during the next cycle.

To meet that goal, members of the crew took advantage of down time on deployment to study for the fall exam, and the ship also offered additional opportunities to study. One command program, “Professional Pursuit,” focused on Professional Military Knowledge (PMK) topics, to include Enlisted Surface and Aviation Warfare Specialist material, as well as damage control, 3M, and Navy history. Initiated by the ship’s Training department and run by the First Class Petty Officers’ Association, the program was a combination board game and television game show in which Sailors competed in teams of five on the ship’s mess decks in elimination-style rounds. Competitors won prizes ranging from head-of-the-line passes to free drinks at the ship’s coffee bar, Lonestar Café. Each winning week’s winning team carried the Professional Pursuit trophy to their departmental spaces.

“I knew most of the PMK questions on the test because of Professional Pursuit,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mat (Handling) Airman Vanessa Pierson of Air Department, who was selected for advancement to third class petty officer. “It was fun and rewarding, not only because of how it helped me on the advancement exam, but because my team won the overall competition, we’ll be some of the first Sailors to get off the ship when we return from deployment.”

In addition to the challenge from the captain and unique study programs, Colton also credited leadership on the deckplates for creating an environment focused on success. For example, the ship’s Legal Department enjoyed 75 percent advancement, with three of four Sailors promoting. Chief Legalman James Connor credited his Sailors’ performance to a tailored training program, rotating his personnel through various positions throughout the department, and a sense of personal ownership.

“We created a focused training plan geared towards the bibliographies,” Connor said. “My Sailors implemented the Legalman 52-week training program, and they took ownership over their training topics and conducted outstanding training that benefited each of them.”

The ship’s educational services office (ESO) also played a critical role in the command’s success. ESO verified nearly 1,550 service records and four electronic databases to ensure the flawless administration and processing of each exam. As a result, the Naval Education and Training Professional Development and Technology Center reported zero exam discrepancies for the ship. According to educational services officer Lt. j.g. Aquichia Brown, advancement to E-6 Navy-wide was 10.3 percent from the Fall cycle, and George H.W. Bush more than doubled it with 23.9 percent promoting to first class petty officer.

“The crew looked around to see what they could do better and implemented tools such as Professional Pursuit, PMK training, and leadership group training,” said Brown. “Of course, the dedication of Sailors applying themselves to study played the biggest part in all of this.”

George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. The Navy’s final Nimitz-class aircraft carrier departed its homeport of Norfolk, Va., May 11.

Naval Today Staff, November 24, 2011; Image: navy