NROTC Midshipmen Attend Motivating Ship Naming Ceremony

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Article by MIDN 1/C Huynh, Photo by SECNAV public affairs staff

 

Ten midshipmen had the amazing opportunity to attend the naming ceremony of the US Navy’s newest fleet replenishment oilers, T-AO 209 and 210. This service, held in the Boston Public Library, showcased the social reforms which have come to the US Navy under Ray Mabus’ direction. The Secretary of the Navy has named this newest class of oilers the John Lewis-class, after the civil rights activist Rep. John Lewis, and has declared that he would name all subsequent ships after those who fight for human rights. Notably, Secretary Mabus named T-AO 206 “USNS Harvey Milk,” after the LGBTQ rights activist who was assassinated while in political office.

The moving ceremony started off with the presentation of colors and national anthem by the USS Constitution staff. Secretary Mabus then rose and addressed the audience, commenting on the fact that all of the sailors from the USS Constitution staff — both men and women — were wearing the same uniform. Females in the military, he pointed out, were routinely separated from the rest of their comrades in both duties and uniform. But it is clear that he will not stand for this type of inequality in today’s Navy. He told the audience, “you weren’t looking at male sailors or female sailors. You were looking at sailors, and that’s the way it ought to be.”

The SECNAV announced the names for the two newest oilers, which further highlighted his dedication to gender equality and civil rights in the Navy. He named the new oilers the USNS Lucy Stone and the USNS Sojourner Truth, after historic female civil rights leaders.

Lucy Stone was a vocal advocate for women’s rights and the first woman to earn a college degree in Massachusetts. A strong, driven woman, Lucy Stone famously decided to keep her own name after marriage, which was nearly unheard of in the 17th century, and vocally pushed for legislation to abolish slavery and to promote women’s rights and suffrage.

Sojourner Truth was a black woman born into slavery in 1797. Originally born Isabella Baumfree, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth after her escape to freedom, and became an extraordinarily outspoken human rights advocate, known for her speech “Ain’t I A Woman.” She became the first black woman to win a lawsuit against a white man after she sued for custody of her son, who had been sold to a different master after she fled to freedom.

Secretary Mabus also announced the sponsors for the two newest ships during the naming ceremony. For the USNS Lucy Stone, he chose Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and for the USNS Sojourner Truth, he chose Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Ms. Wright attended the ceremony, and spoke on the importance of women’s rights and civil rights activism. She read a quote from Sojourner Truth, which is inscribed on a pendant she wears around her neck: “If women want any rights more than they’ve got, why don’t they just take them and not be talking about it?” Wright exhorted the gathered crowd to take these words seriously, saying that “these are our marching orders.”

After closing remarks by SECNAV, and the reveal of the USNS Sojourner Truth and USNS Lucy Stone, the ceremony was over. The Midshipmen in attendance had the opportunity to talk with some of the former military members in the audience, and then snagged a photo with the Secretary himself (shown above).

The BU-MIT Midshipmen left the ceremony with pride in the tenets which their uniforms represent. MIDN 2/C Henzer of Tufts University commented that “hearing the SECNAV’s explanation of why these ships were receiving these names was extremely important in terms of acknowledging the ideals we fight for, especially given that these women were leaders outside of a military context.” Of course, he also admitted, “getting to see the SECNAV himself was an amazing opportunity, and we all left feeling much more motivated about the service.”

Fourth Class Participate in USS Constitution Heritage Weekend

20160917_122551.jpgBy MIDN 3/C Daniel Kelly, Photo by USS Constitution Public Affairs

Freshmen from the Boston NROTC Consortium traveled to the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” this past weekend, September 17th and 18th, for a lesson in US Navy tradition and interactions with enlisted sailors. The USS Constitution, the Navy’s oldest commissioned warship, is a working naval command as well as a historical site. The crew are all active duty members of the US Navy who participate in outreach events and ceremonies for the mission of educating people on the rich history of the USS Constitution. The incoming 4/C had the honor of taking part in some these events.

Early Saturday, the freshmen and supporting staff arrived at the Constitution ready for a full day of training events and naval history. The weekend started with a trip to Bunker Hill and a lesson on the history of the “Battle of Bunker Hill,” one of the early battles of the American Revolutionary War where the famous order “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” was given. Then the 4/C engaged in an informative lesson in drill with Gunnery Sergeant Askew. Afterwards, the freshmen spent time at various stations where they actively participated in evolutions that the crew of the Constitution in the 19th century would have done as well.

The first of three groups started at the cannon firing station. Midshipmen gained proficiency in the workings of loading and firing a cannon, trying to attain the shortest cycle time. Another group wen to the pike station where they learned how to wield and fight with pikes. The pike, a long staffed weapon with a blade on the end, was used by the Marines on the Constitution to prevent the ship from being boarded. The last of the groups would be at the rowing station, during which the freshmen were able to work as a team and row around the Boston Harbor in gigs designed to resemble ones used by Constitution in the 19th century.

Saturday night the freshmen helped clean the warship and polish her brass, then took part in a tour of the whole ship where they were told the history of the ship and ghost stories from Old Ironsides’ crewmembers. Getting the full experience, the 4/C spent the night under the stars on the top deck of the ship. MIDN 4/C Pilepich said “I gained a true appreciation for the history and the traditions of the Navy. There is nothing quite like spending a night aboard the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy to teach someone that.”

The next morning all of the midshipmen and staff had the opportunity to run along part of Boston’s Freedom Trail all the way to historic Faneuil Hall. The ship’s crew led the formation run and taught the midshipmen to sing cadence. The few hardy Bostonians we met along the route cheered and wished us well as we ran by.

After the run and a quick cleanup, the midshipmen went back to the gunnery station to compete for the fastest time. Team 3 won the event and received “Master Gunner” certificates and spent shell casings from the Constitution’s 40mm ceremonial cannon as their prizes. After cleaning and polishing the ship’s spar deck one last time and enjoying a hot breakfast in the galley, the midshipmen enjoyed an entertaining presentation about the ship’s history and restoration in the USS Constitution Museum and etched their names into the copper plating that will line her hull for the next 20 years.

Overall, it was an amazing learning and team-building experience, and we are thankful to the crew of the USS Constitution for this unique opportunity.