Justin Alvarado, assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), checked aboard as an undesignated airman while the ship was on deployment. He went through trial by fire as he was tossed into the chaos of flight deck operations. Through his undesignated experiences, he was able to learn about multiple Air ratings, allowing him to truly understand how Air Department worked together, and the integral roles everyone played in completing the mission. However, he felt that he was never truly able to flourish and fulfill his true potential until he had the opportunity to choose a rating and become a petty officer.
As an undesignated airman seeking a rating, the choice was easy for Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) (ABH) 3rd Class Justin Alvarado.
However, due to his lack of rating, he faced a lot of hardships and challenges from peers before he ever had the chance to choose one that was best for him.
“When I first came in, the minute I came to ‘A’ school, people gave me slack for being an undesignated Airman,” said Alvarado.
Instead of allowing himself to lose motivation, he listened to what his leadership said in boot camp: always get his qualifications taken care of, and to earn his warfare specialist devices quickly.
A warfare specialist device is an insignia worn by Sailors who have demonstrated an advanced level of knowledge about a ship’s warfare capabilities. In order to earn one, Sailors must seek out training in multiple areas of shipboard information, and then display their understanding by passing both a written test and an oral board.
Alvarado worked hard and acquired his aviation warfare specialist device and his surface warfare specialist devices while undesignated, becoming dual qualified.
Having two warfare specialist devices allowed him to stand out against other undesignated Airman while applying for an open job in the Air community ratings.
When Alvarado’s time did come to apply for a rating, he was faced with few options.
“I could basically choose between ABH and ABE (Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment)),” said Alvarado. “I was more qualified as an ABH, so I just went with that.”
“When I really started thinking about what I wanted to do, I wanted to be an Aircrew Survival Equipmentman, but I only had the options of ABH or ABE.”
At first Alvarado was disappointed, but after thinking about it, he realized how proud he was to be an ABH because of everything he and his department had accomplished on deployment.
He said that while on deployment he would help get the jets ready to launch from the carrier.
Also, Alvarado said, meeting the pilots and hearing what their missions were and how Air Department helped them was awesome. After spending time on deployment with Air, he knew then that he loved it and was proud being an ABH.
Alvarado was working in V-1 Division before the ship pulled into the shipyards, but when the ship arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for extended planned incremental maintenance availability he was temporarily sent to Religious Ministries.
Leaving Air Department was difficult for Alvarado, and he said he misses his ABH family.
“When i was told i was coming here, i actually cried”- Alvarado
“When I was told I was coming here [Religious Ministries] I actually cried,” said Alvarado. “I never met a tighter group of people than I had in Air. We could all yell at each other and hate each other, but at the end of the day we had each other’s back, and that’s the beauty of the Air community.”
He said he cried because he didn’t want to leave those people, they were his family, and they had his back through thick and thin.
Now, in Religious Ministries, Alvarado feels like he is able to help people a little bit more.
He said it’s easy to not realize how he is helping people just by talking to them, because he doesn’t always get to see the results.
However when Rear Adm. Margaret Kibben, Chief of Chaplains, visited she reminded all of the Religious Programs Specialist about the impact they have. It was then that he knew he wanted to stay in Religious Ministries and become a RP.
“We’re all about helping people grow spiritually and mentally,” said Alvarado. “I really like talking to people, and that’s what the job is, getting out there, talking to people and hearing their story.”
Feeling compelled to permanently be part of the Religious Ministries team and help people on a more full-term basis, he began taking the necessary steps to switch ratings to RP.
He said throughout the process he would consistently talk to the career counselors, but they just kept telling him to wait for his chance to apply on Career Waypoints (C-way).
C-way is a program that allows Sailors to submit packages and compete for a quota within a certain rating. If they are approved for a quota they are allowed to reenlist in the Navy for the rating they were approved for. Sailors can choose to apply for their own rating or another rating. For Alvarado, he wanted to cross-rate and applied for RP.
When the time came for him to apply for a rating, he was told RP was an available option. After applying, all he had to do was wait.
“The most difficult part for me was when I was applying on C-way and waiting to see if I would get picked up or not,” said Alvarado.
Alvarado said he was told most people didn’t get a quota their first time applying and that he would have to try applying two or three more times. When he found out he was selected his first time up he was in shock.
When thinking back to when he first found out he was selected for RP he said, “I can’t even tell you my emotions. I was just really excited.”
The toughest part of his path was now cleared, but he was still worried about what his friends in V-1 were going to say when they heard the news.
“There are some people who were truly upset, and some people saying congratulations,” said Alvarado. “Working in V-1, everyone is really close knit and has your back. They’re like one big family. I do miss that, but I am looking forward to new adventures, and I have a really close family here in Religious Ministries.”
The ministry keeps Alvarado’s head on straight by reminding him not to listen to what other people may say because only he is responsible for what he does with his career.
Throughout the experience Alvarado learned a lot about what it means to pursue his goals through adversity.
In regards to cross-rating, Alvarado said, “If you really want something, keep putting in for it and it will happen. It will take time, but if you keep pursuing it, it will happen, and it did.”
Alvarado is still with Religious Ministries waiting for his orders to come through. He will be going to school to cover the basic curriculum associated with being an RP, and then he will be stationed at a new command as an RP.
Every rating in the Navy has a unique role that helps the Navy play out its mission. Whether getting aircraft ready to launch or being there to talk to ship’s force when they need someone, there is always a way to contribute to the fight.
Story and photos by MC3 William Blees