JUNE 2, 2015, U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (NNS) – “Choose your rate, choose your fate,” a common saying on the deck plates of any vessel in today’s Navy. While Sailors choose their rate upon enlistment, there is a portion who enter the fleet undesignated. They stand watch, heave line, maintain equipment and complete the tough tasks of cleaning and painting to keep the ship looking her finest. After the work concludes, undesignated Sailors can search for a permanent job to “strike” into. These Sailors take their fate into their own hands as they strike their rate.
Aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), strikers search for the rate they’re best qualified for by seeking mentorship and counseling from leaders that have been in their boots before. Two TR Sailors have gone above and beyond the expectations that were made for them as undesignated seamen, redefining the possibilities and avenues to success.
Senior Chief Personnel Specialist Troy Millare started his ascension through the ranks in 1992 as an undesignated seaman aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Guam (LPH 9).
“I wanted a job and I thought that being an undesignated seaman was cool at the time,” said Millare. “It was a good job. I enjoyed doing outside physical labor and I really didn’t mind it at the time. It also gave me the opportunity to look at all the other jobs on the ship and try to strike for one that I was really interested in.”
Undesignated seamen are part of the Professional Apprenticeship Career Track Program (PACT). Following basic training and a four-week apprenticeship school, PACT seamen check onboard to receive guidance from their chain of command and command career counselor on which rate best suits them.
Millare spent two and a half years as an undesignated seaman before striking disbursing clerk (DK).
“I learned a lot of things as an undesignated seaman,” said Millare. “Driving the ship, taking care of small boats and stuff like that. Once I got into a rating I enjoyed, I got to wear my first clean uniform and I got off the Deck [Department] watch bill. I got the opportunity to work in customer service as a DK. I thought it was a good move.”
Lt. Nancy Helfrich has a similar story from when she entered the Navy as an undesignated seaman in 1996.
“It was hard. I was on a destroyer and there were only a handful of us,” said Helfrich. “I was chipping paint, driving the ship, standing lookout, but I liked being part of something so much bigger than myself. I never said that I was just going to do my time and get out.”
Helfrich, assigned to the destroyer USS Briscoe (DD 977), was fixated on her goal to strike into the Navy’s medical field.
“Everybody wanted me to strike their rate,” Helfrich said through her laughter. “I had my heart set on being a corpsman and being in the medical field so I just stuck to my guns. Corpsman is a rate that you have to go to A-school. A year and half later, I was on my way to A-school.”
Fast forward to the present; Millare serves as Administrative Department leading chief petty officer and Helfrich is the ship’s nurse after rising through the ranks and earning her commission in 2008.
“It was a long way,” said Millare. “I have been in the Navy for 22 years now. I never thought I would be sitting here running the Admin Department. Choosing this rating led me to an opportunity to work for various types of commands and platforms. That’s one thing I really enjoy about my rating; that I can travel and be stationed at all types of different commands. I have had a very diverse career.”
“I feel accomplished,” said Helfrich. “I had to work hard to become a corpsman, nothing was given to me. We all do not have the same experiences and opportunities in life so I feel like the Navy opened so many doors for me. I love the Navy. It has so much to offer and people need to take advantage and make the most of their career.”
From painting bulkheads as an undesignated seaman to giving vaccines and drawing blood as a hospital corpsman (HM), Helfrich remembers both stages of her journey.
“Both [boatswain’s mates] BMs and HMs have a special place in my heart,” said Helfrich. “I will never forget where I came from.”
For more information on the striking process, contact your career counselor.
Theodore Roosevelt is the flagship of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), which is composed of Carrier Strike Group 12, Carrier Air Wing 1, Destroyer Squadron 2 staff, the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG 60) and the guided-missile destroyers USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81), USS Farragut (DDG 99) and USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98).
Roosevelt is deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations supporting Operation Inherent Resolve, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the region.