Thursday, March 4, 2021

Students Learn about the Navy as Commanding Officer for a Day

“I’m happy that my hard work at school paid off so I could have this privilege. #inspired.” CMS 8th grader Joe Wampler

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A dozen students, two from each school in Coronado, were treated to the “Commanding Office for a Day” program at Naval Air Station North Island Thursday, October 23, 2014. Initiated in 2011 by then Regional School Liaison Shannon Milder and endorsed and approved by Rear Admiral French, Commander, Navy Region Southwest, the C.O. for a day program aims to “positively engage our local school districts, provide mentoring to local students, and allow local students to experience first-hand the unique lifestyle of the Navy.”

Each Coronado school, including Christ Church Day School, Coronado Middle School, Coronado High School, Sacred Heart Parish School, Strand Elementary, and Village Elementary, chose two students to attend the program, one girl and one boy. The nomination process varies per school and this year the children ranged from fifth grade to a senior in high school.

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The active duty drivers for the day. The group with Captain Chris Sund.

Organized by Naval Base Coronado Navy School Liaison Officer (SLO), Amiee Gillig, the C.O. for a day program requires a lot of planning and a great deal of cooperation between the families, the schools and the base. The day started at 7:45 a.m. and ended at 2 p.m. The students were split into three groups, each group with their own driver and adult chaperone. Chaperones included SLO Gillig, Village Fifth grade teacher Matt Andrijasevich (Mr. A), and Kellee Hearther. Our active duty drivers for the day were ACAN Brunson, ABH2 McGhee and ACAN Head.

The first stop was the quarterdeck, which houses the office of the Commanding Officer, Naval Base Coronado, Captain Chris Sund. The group assembled in a conference room around a large oval table. Each student was presented with a clipboard, a list of questions to be answered through out the day and a “C.O. for the day” name tag to be worn for the duration of the program. We watched a short video to help familiarize us with the Navy and its mission, and learned the core values of the Navy are “honor, courage, commitment.”

Captain Sund addressed the students and explained a little bit about how the base works, comparing the quarterdeck to city hall and the base to a city. He presented each participant with a certificate and answered their questions. The students asked him about his dream job growing up, what airplane he flies, what his first car was, what sports he played in high school and what he does daily. He was patient, candid and funny.

The rest of the schedule included thirty minutes at Federal Fire Station #11, twenty minutes at the air traffic control tower, a boat ride with Port Operations, a tour of the galley and five-star dining for lunch, and thirty minutes with a security K-9 unit. The students were introduced to some major components that keep the base and its occupants safe and everything running smoothly. They were met at each stop by true professionals and treated to an explanation of the certain department. This is an incredible opportunity for the students who are chosen to attend and also a chance for the sailors to highlight their duties, co-workers and daily contribution to Navy life. The experience helped to illustrate the amount of people, resources, time and energy that go into keeping the base up and running successfully.

The program is funded by Community Support programs and includes other school districts that fall into the Navy Region Southwest area. There is a similar program at Naval Base San Diego. South Bay Union School district visited NASNI the day after the Coronado school students.

Federal Fire Station #11

Officer J. Whittemore greeted the students and chaperones and talked about the duties of the firefighters. Captain Macias gave a tour of the fire truck and the group paused to take a group photograph with the Fire Station mascot, Sparky. Next, it was time for a tour and discussion of the ARF, Aircraft Rescue Firefighting truck, or “the water truck”. Officer Lucero pointed out some of the truck’s features and then the students took turns sitting in the cab of the truck and learning about the controls.

J. Whittemore greets the students at the fire station. Sparky pauses to pose with the students from Coronado.

Officer Macias leads a tour of the fire engine. Students took turns learning about the ARF.

The water requirement of an installation is based on the size of the airfield and especially the size of planes that land at the particular airfield. NASNI and the outlying field in IB both have the same water requirements. The students learned that the ladder truck carries 500 gallons of water, though it’s primarily used for the high reaching ladder. There is an ARF that carries 1,500 gallons and one that carries 3,000 gallons. The regular fire truck carries 1,000 gallons of water. The water in the ARF shoots out of the hose at two hundred pounds per square inch.

Abigail tries her skill at controlling the large fire hose. Forty to sixty pound equipment worn by the firefighters.

Everyone loved the ARF, Aircraft Rescue Firefighting truck, which holds 3,000 gallons of water.

Some students took the opportunity to try on the firefighter gear, weighing anywhere from 40-60 pounds and others got to try their skill at holding the hose as water streamed out of it.

Tommy and Danny give the heavy firefighting gear a try.

Students learn about the importance of the air traffic control tower and its workers.

Air Traffic Control Tower and Catwalk
The tour was at the control tower just before 10 a.m. and there weren’t many aircraft in the air. The best thing about the tower was the three hundred and sixty degree view. It was possible to see the Coronado Bay Bridge, downtown San Diego, San Diego bay, Point Loma, Navy Lodge North Island and the entire flight line. (Little did we realize we would be seeing some of the same ships, aircraft, and structures from the water on our next stop.) The group got to exit the tower and walk around it, on the outside catwalk. The catwalk is surrounded by a high railing for safety and boasts the same great views as the tower, without having to look through glass.

Mr. A enjoys the view from the air traffic control tower catwalk.

Port Operations

Port Operations main objective is the recovery and containment of oil. With so many ships going in and out of the bay, there is bound to be some pollution and the port ops people help keep the bay clean and safe. They also boast the Maintenance facility for well over 100 boats. The piers at NASNI can hold a maximum of three aircraft carriers and two auxiliary oilers at one time.

No one got sick on the boat ride and that was a huge bonus! Everyone had to wear a life jacket for safety. Mr. A stayed in the front of the boat with younger students and the rest migrated to the back. The ride took us out of the restricted area and along the perimeter of NASNI.

At one point, the boat slowed to a no wake speed as we passed another small boat that was anchored. One of the crew explained that from certain markers on the boat, he could tell there were divers in the water and that they were working with mammals, probably dolphins. Minimizing the wake as our boat passed was important for the safety of the divers in the water. We got up close to a buoy where a sea lion napped and got a first hand look at security for a ship that was moored for loading/unloading. We even got close enough to spy a submarine.

NASNI DiningFacility

Also called the “Galley”, the NASNI Dining Facility was well run and squeaky clean. The tour of the galley was lead by CS1 Crnkovich (Culinary Specialist) who was an excellent tour guide and resource for all things galley related. The building was built in 1975 but was refurbished about a year ago. The staff was in the process of serving lunch, but also preparing for the annual inspection. CS1 explained that inspectors come all the way from Washington DC to make sure the galley is maintaining the high standards of the Navy. The tour started at the memorial plaque identifying the facility as the LCDR Patrick J. Byrne, USN (Ret.) Enlisted Dining Hall and the POW/MIA table, a fixture at every dining facility on shore or at sea.

Hanging out in the freezer which was about zero degrees.

The galley has three lines with three separate and distinct menus. The day we were there, the menu included roast turkey or BBQ beef in one line, a “you make it your way” sandwich line, and a bistro style line serving Philly cheese steaks and chicken stir fry. The students learned that the facility is only for active duty, though civilians can dine for special occasions by invitation. The galley holds 30 days worth of food and serves 950 meals a day.

Our group received a four-course meal in a separate (and special) dining room with table service. The students learned about the different variety of silverware and exhibited excellent table manners.

Natasha and Leila POW/MIA table Table decorations

Lunch included clam chowder, a beautiful salad, chicken with rice pilaf/mixed veggies & a strawberry shortcake dessert.

Wokie, Natasha and Leila enjoy some coffee, as does Frankie.

Master at Arms (M.A.) K-9 Unit
The last station on the CO for a day tour was just across from the galley at a small park. MA1 Allen explained that the security or Master at Arms detail reports directly to the Commanding Officer with the primary task of enforcing the rules of the base. MA2 Coyne and his dog MWD SziSzi and MA2 Shields and his dog MWD Jimmy were present to educate the group about security and MWDs (Military Working Dogs). Both dogs were German Shepherds, though there are a variety of breeds used for MWDs.

MA2 Shield and his MWD Jimmy.

The dogs at the demonstration were both trained in apprehension and arrest. They were both trained, as well, to locate explosive devices. The dogs and handlers spend time training every day. Many times on base the mere presence of the dog can help deter a situation. There are over 11,500 vehicles that enter NASNI each day.

MA2 Shields explained that there are certain elements included in explosive devices. He showed the students a bag of potassium chloride and then (with the dogs in the truck), hid the bag. Each dog took a turn searching for the bag and they each found it in a short amount of time.

CHS Sophomore Kelli Law said that the dogs were her favorite part. “It was interesting to see how obedient they are with the handlers and that there’s a specific job in the military for dogs.”

CMS Eighth grader and ASB President Alysah Hickey said “It was a really fun experience and I am glad I did it. There are so many different jobs in the Navy, they do so many different things. We got to learn more in depth information about some of those jobs.”

Christ Church Day School fifth grader, Natasha Russ said that “the boat was fun and lunch was really fancy and good!”

Will Heaton, CHS Senior said his favorite part was the boat ride. “I like that they train dolphins. I didn’t realize the military had dolphins.”

Sacred Heart Parish 8th grader Abigail Tanuma offered that “if was a fun experience to learn all the things we didn’t know happen in our city. I liked experiencing the different military aspect. The dogs were my favorite part.”

“I learned a lot about the Navy and how it operates. My favorite part was the boat ride and the food was amazing,” shared Frankie Downey, an 8th grader at Sacred Heart Parish school.

Village 5th grade teacher, Mr. A, was honest about the fact that he wasn’t necessarily looking forward to coming. The program changed his mind, “I didn’t want to come in the very beginning until I got here and did all the fun and exciting things. I had a good time and seeing the kids learn and see new stuff and do certain things was great. My favorite part was the boat ride, even though I got soaked!”

For more information on the Commanding Officer for a Day program, contact NBC School Liaison Officer Amiee Gillig


Kellee Hearther

Staff Writer

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