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Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class Marcus Young of Shannon, Miss., gives a safety brief on the M-60 machine gun to Midshipmen 3rd Class Zachary Weinman, of Annapolis, Md., on the fantail aboard USS Enterprise. Enterprise is one of seven aircraft carriers participating in Summer Pulse ’04. Weinman is an ROTC student volunteering on the ship.

Torpedoman’s Mate 3rd Class Marcus Young of Shannon, Miss., gives a safety brief on the M-60 machine gun to Midshipmen 3rd Class Zachary Weinman, of Annapolis, Md., on the fantail aboard USS Enterprise. Enterprise is one of seven aircraft carriers participating in Summer Pulse ’04. Weinman is an ROTC student volunteering on the ship. (Marcel A. Barbeau / Courtesy of U.S. Navy)

ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE — In a couple of years, Zach Weinman, 19, will be a naval officer and in charge.

But this summer, he’s a petty officer and taking orders.

For two months aboard this aircraft carrier, he has lived and worked like any regular, enlisted sailor — mopping the deck, helping pull lines and manning watches on the bridge. Rank might have its privileges, but for now Weinman said being an enlisted sailor — even if only for the summer — is valuable experience.

“You learn the enlisted side of things and that’s what this cruise is all about,” said Weinman, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Maine.

Every year, Naval Academy and Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipmen volunteer to join ships and submarines at sea to get a better idea of what sea life is like and get an up-close look at what enlisted sailors do while under way.

Ten college students joined the Enterprise this summer before the carrier deployed to the eastern Atlantic Ocean as part of the Summer Pulse ’04 exercise.

Lt. Cmdr. Simonia Blassingame, the carrier’s training officer, said the cruises often are an eye-opening and humbling experience for the students, who will become commissioned officers after they graduate. It’s not unusual for a few to get lost on the 1,123-foot vessel.

“Some have never been on a ship before,” Blassingame said.

This is no pleasure cruise.

Many of the midshipmen are getting an appreciation for the long hours sailors work. They have their own living spaces, but they eat in the general mess with the enlisted sailors.

Two midshipmen aboard the Enterprise are serving as division officers in the ship’s deck department because the positions are vacant. Monika Goodrich and Amy Haag are taking on more duties than usual.

Haag, 21, a chemical engineering student from Pennsylvania, said the cruise is a chance to watch officers and department heads in action.

“You see so many different leadership styles,” Haag said. “You’ve seen effective ones and noneffective ones.”

Academy and ROTC students can go on as many as three cruises designed to deliver a better understanding of the at-sea Navy and Marine Corps.

Midshipmen receive a salary equivalent to that of a petty officer second class for the tour, but they do not have the authority that comes with rank. They are sort of in a “gray area,” somewhere between and enlisted sailor and a junior officer.

“We’re like half of an ensign,” said James Cardwell, 22, a psychology major at Auburn University in Alabama.

While the midshipmen aren’t recognized as officers, they said the enlisted sailors and the chief petty officers have gone out of their way to help them. It’s probably a good idea that they do, Blassingame said.

“You never know,” she said. “In a few years, this could be the person they’re working for.”


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