By Erik Wright, National Museum of the American Sailor Education Specialist
As the sharp formations of sailors with ornately decorated charge book vessels and anxious faces came marching up to the National Museum of the American Sailor, one uniform was slightly different than the rest. Among the nearly one hundred promotable petty officers first class was a service member with Air Force E-7 rank. This strange sight within the columns of sailors that descended upon Naval Station Great Lakes for its annual Chief-select initiation season begged an immediate question: Why was an Air Force Master Sergeant training with the Navy’s soon-to-be newest Chief’s?
The answer: She is Master Sergeant Jennifer Medeiros, an aid to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, DC. Master Sergeant Medeiros participated in Naval Station Great Lakes’ “Back to Bootcamp” Chief-Select training week as a requirement for her leadership experience. She missed the chance to attend an Air Force leadership training camp due to maternity leave and jumped at the prospect of coming to Great Lakes for this opportunity.
This leadership experience for newly promotable petty officers first class happens at installations across the Navy. Chiefs, Master Chiefs,
and Senior Chiefs spearhead the annual ritual. At Naval Station Great Lakes, this initiation process is called ‘Back to Bootcamp’ and is led by select Recruit Division Commanders (RDC’s) from Recruit Training Command, which oversees the Navy’s only Bootcamp. “Back to Bootcamp” is a rigorous, week-long leadership camp that includes classroom training, intense physical fitness instruction, remedial military instruction, and naval history and heritage training, the latter of which the National Museum of the American Sailor supports every year. Some of these sailors originally trained at Great Lakes boot camp. For others, however, this training was their first experience with the base and its 106-year history. During this year’s session, Master Sergeant Medeiros and the sailors in her class conducted their own history and heritage training in conjunction with the National Museum of the American Sailor.
While some presented information about museum exhibits, others marched to Ross Field to learn about the early 1900’s buildings that surround Naval Station Great Lakes’ enormous parade field. All of the promotable petty officers first class are excited for the chance to become part of a storied corps of naval leadership that dates back to the Revolutionary War. Whatever their inspiration may be, these future leaders had the ability to experience deckplate leadership firsthand during their week of training at Naval Station Great Lakes and pass those lessons learned on to junior sailors in the years to come.
For more information on the National Museum of the American Sailor visit https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/museums/nmas.html