The Legal Department aboard USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) crushed qualifications! Lt. SaraAnn Bennett qualified as Officer of the Deck (Underway) (OOD(U/W)), Legalman 1st Class Precious Lee and Legalman 3rd Class Tiffany Williams earned Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS) qualifications, and Legalman 1st Class Jonathan White earned Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS) qualification.
The ESWS and EAWS qualifications help legalmen better understand the different departments on the ship – how they function and how they contribute to the warfighting mission. By meeting with each department during the qualification process, Sailors better understand the bigger picture, how each department interacts with the others and how each of their missions impacts the others. These qualifications also make legalmen more relatable with their peers and leaders from across the departments. Additionally, these qualifications enable legalmen to understand why certain misconduct, such as watchstanding violations, are a big deal on the ship because you learn about the risks incurred by and possible second and third order effects of those violations. Ultimately, ESWS and EAWS make legalmen better overall Sailors and provide more credibility when interacting with Chiefs, Warrant Officers, and Limited Duty Officers.
The professional benefits for a judge advocate earning the OOD(U/W) qualification is gaining a better understanding of the line community’s priorities and how misconduct--even what others may perceive as relatively minor misconduct--can have significant negative impacts on the safety of all 3,000 Sailors and mission accomplishment. Not to mention, the professional achievement of driving an aircraft carrier!
One responsibility of earning ESWS and EAWS is to pay it forward by training more Sailors and leading boards and applying that knowledge of the ship and the departments’ missions to work toward other qualifications such as Junior Section Leader (JSL) and Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD). In those roles on duty, it requires making sure watchstanders are actually on watch, tracking down missing Sailors, making sure trash is emptied to minimize shipyard fire hazards, and berthing is clean.
Receiving the OOD qualification means that the commanding officer trusts you with the safe navigation of the ship, with or without the presence of the commanding officer on the bridge, and to safely and competently manage the bridge watchstanders in executing the plan of the day.
For both legalmen and judge advocates, JSL, JOOD, and OOD qualifications require appropriately and effectively balancing time to accomplish legal work, which is expected to be run in an efficient manner on an aircraft carrier, to swiftly address good order and discipline issues and get Sailors back to focusing on the mission, with the greater ship-wide responsibilities that affect all departments and the mission at-large.
With ESWS and EAWS, Sailors are better equipped to work toward JSL and JOOD qualifications and execute those duties. Having to balance those duties with legal work can be challenging, especially in the shipyard. With the ship undergoing so much work in the shipyard, the Legal Department’s offices are currently relocated to the nearby barge. However, those spaces on the barge do not get reception on the bricks (hand-held radios), so when on duty, legalmen aren’t able to do legal work because as JSL or JOOD they must be have constant brick reception to respond to incidents. Managing the balance between legal responsibilities and duty can be a challenge but it’s part of being a successful Sailor on an aircraft carrier, especially in the shipyard.
As OOD(U/W) balancing those duties with legal duties is a tremendous challenge. When on watch, the OOD’s full focus is on safe navigation of the ship, managing bridge watchstanders, and executing the plan of the day. That means that legal work is on hold until watch is over. Long days can result and are particularly challenging when you’ve stood bridge watch in the middle of the night. Finding the balance to be fully alert during watch and getting enough sleep to also be fully alert to focus on producing solid legal work, providing sound, properly researched advice, and leading a department is the critical challenge.
According to Lee, Williams, and White, the most rewarding part of earning ESWW and EAWS is the ability to pass on the knowledge to fellow Sailors, paying it forward. It also makes them more competitive for promotion.
"The most rewarding part of receiving the OOD(U/W) qualification was the camaraderie gained while standing bridge watch with ship's company, and the ability to see and understand everything that goes into the aircraft carrier accomplishing the mission while underway," said Bennett.