News | July 10, 2012

A Legal Assist of the USS Enterprise on its Last Voyage

By Lt. Jean-Marc Chanoine, Naval Legal Service Office Mid-Atlantic

Capt. Michael T. Palmer, commanding officer, Naval Legal Service Office Mid-Atlantic (NLSO MIDLANT), conducted a meritorious mast for 15 enlisted Sailors and one civilian, recognizing them for superior performance and dedication during NLSO MIDLANT’s recent unplanned pre-deployment support to USS Enterprise (CVN 65) March 16.

“It is my duty as commanding officer to recognize when Sailors have gone beyond their ordinary call of duty showing incredible poise, enthusiasm and grace under pressure,” said Palmer.

Before nuclear propulsion and the days of the steel hull, when sails ruled the day, ceremonies on ships were held under a ship’s mainmast on a regular basis. During these ceremonies commanding officers would dole out punishment and sometimes give out accolades, thus the modern term “captain’s mast” emerged. Ordinarily, when Sailors think of “mast” they think about circumstances where commanding officers impose punishment for disciplinary offenses. However, commanding officers may also conduct meritorious mast when sailors perform above and beyond the call of duty. A meritorious mast is a formal ceremonial acknowledgement of superior performance and rising to a challenge beyond the ordinary requirements of duty.

“This is quite unusual.  I participated in one meritorious mast in two years aboard my ship, and this is only the second I have attended,” said Cmdr. Thomas E. Miro, Legal Assistance Department, NLSO MIDLANT, a 24-year Navy veteran.

Enterprise departed its homeport of Norfolk for its final deployment, March 11. The storied ship, our Navy’s oldest active carrier and home to the filming of “Top Gun,” needed to ensure its most precious cargo, the Sailors who accomplish her daily missions, were legally prepared and ready to go. That’s when NLSO MIDLANT’s legal assistance staff stepped up at a moment’s notice to make sure their brothers and sisters at arms had their legal affairs in order before embarking on their long journey.

“I know how hard deployments can be from personal experience,” said Intelligence Specialist Seaman Vanessa Muquercia, Legal Assistance Department, NLSO MIDLANT.  “From my experience working in the NLSO, Sailors who are unable to take care of their legal issues before deployment can have massive problems on their hands while they are away and when they come back. Taking care of these Sailors was challenging but I was more than happy to do it.”

NLSO MIDLANT’s Sailors and civilians generated an astounding 335 powers of attorney in a three-day period.  To put that into perspective, that is approximately 14 powers of attorney per hour for three working days. All this was done while NLSO MIDLANT seamlessly provided uninterrupted support to NLSO MIDLANT’s regular Fleet clientele, numbering well over a 1000 per month. NLSO MIDLANT’s legal assistant lobby is usually full, but on this occasion the scene was more akin to a concert or amusement park ride with lines snaking out the door.

“The Navy’s number one resource is its people. Ultimately, the mission’s success rest in the hands of the individual Sailor. If we at NLSO MIDLANT can help make sure that the individual Sailor has the peace of mind that their affairs are in order, that Sailor will be much more effective at carrying out their mission and ultimately the ship’s mission,” said Palmer.

NLSO MIDLANT supports one of the largest Fleet concentrations in the world, and its personnel are always prepared to take care of those getting ready to deploy, whether it be with estate planning advice, tax advice, family law advice, consumer law advice, or any other type of advice a Sailor or his dependents may need. Palmer was honored to have an opportunity to conduct his first meritorious mast at NLSO MIDLANT.  He and his staff look forward to their next opportunity to excel.