First Division: In Their Own Words

By The First Division of USS The Sullivans with Lieutenant (junior grade) Michele Poole

Seaman Apprentice Alhaji Fonah, 20 : "To many sailors, deck division stands for long hours of hard labor and little credit. But I feel privileged to be a part of deck division. It is the only division on board a ship that takes part in almost every operation the ship undertakes. Whether it is boat operations, flight quarters, or taking part in damage control, members of deck division are always there. I look past the hard work and negativity that goes with deck division and concentrate on the many benefits and opportunities that I have gained."

Seaman Natasha Ferguson, 21 : "We, as a division, get harassed by a lot of people because we're deck. On the other hand, being in deck is cool. Driving the ship alone is great! In addition, we perform a variety of life-threatening jobs daily. Such heart-pounding, vein-pumping, thrilling adventures include flight quarters, underway replenishment, man-overboard drills, and small boat operations. Being in deck brings out a sense of pride. In the end you learn to appreciate things—and life—more."

Boatswain's Mate Second Class Tracey Tillman, 30 : "First division carries but one meaning—being the pace setter. Though being in first division is sometimes underappreciated, this is where the personality of the entire command begins. We give the first impression of our ship to all visitors and inspectors alike. It is also an honor to carry on one of the oldest rates and traditions of the U.S. Navy. Being the one true keeper of a ship takes lots of courage, total commitment, and undying effort. Many will question; many will wonder; but I will serve with honor because being in first division is not something everyone can do. Some will try to escape it or just want to depart, but being in first division takes true heart."

Boatswain's Mate Third Class Darren Hutchison, 25 : "Being in first division is being part of a team. Everyone has a role to play and everyone has duties to perform. Deck division is like a football team: The First Lieutenant is the quarterback, running all the plays. The First-Class Boatswain's Mates are the wide receivers, always going the extra mile. The Senior Chief is the kicker, always around to give us the extra-point. And the rest of deck division provides the offense and defense, because without us the ball wouldn't go anywhere."

Seaman Nathaniel Toler, 20 : "Being in first division means having to stand late watches, driving a warship in the middle of the ocean, and cleaning the ship after our other shipmates have left. In the end, you get a Bravo Zulu from the Commanding Officer and your fellow shipmates, and you feel pretty good."

Seaman Apprentice Zabian Davis, 19 : "Being in first division has given me the feeling of self-pride, honor, and a sense of leadership. One of our main assignments is maintaining the ship's appearance, which can tell a lot about a ship's crew. We have to overcome negative stereotypes about deck sometimes. So I take extra effort to have a squared away uniform, to take charge, and to be known for the good things we are about."

Boatswain's Mate Second Class Stephen Arthur, 24 : "Being in first division is a chore for the most part, and rewarding for the rest. We work our butts off for little recognition. Yet, we are the oldest breed in the Navy. Everyone, from the leading chief petty officer to the newest seaman, is respected by our shipmates for the job we do. It takes courage and commitment to stay in deck, but we receive the honor of being a boatswain's mate for our vigilance."

Seaman Apprentice Quincy Copps, 21 : "Being in first division means having a lot of responsibilities in a low pay grade, such as driving the ship, operating equipment, and serving on fire-fighting teams. All the jobs in first division either deal with helping the ship run or saving lives. I think everybody on our team adds a unique quality to the team, to make us truly a first division."

Boatswain's Mate Third Class Kerry Hannah, 23 : "Being in first division means taking up all the slack from the other divisions. It means being one of the first divisions up in the morning to bring the ship into port, and the last one to leave once the ship is moored. I think the majority of the other divisions look at us differently because we don't work with all the advanced equipment as they do. It takes a lot of pride to be in our division because of the tough jobs we are assigned. I think some of the best sailors in the Navy come from deck division."

Boatswain's Mate First Class Jeffrey Reese, 31 : "Being a first division leading petty officer is the most challenging job there is on a warship. Your leadership skills are tested every single day. Nowhere else on the ship are you given the opportunity to make a difference for so many young people. I've been blessed and always had good leaders and role models in my 12 years as a boatswain's mate, and it is a sad thing to see a deck division that doesn't have good leadership. Deck division is the first and last thing you see when you cross the quarterdeck and the people on the foc'sle when a ship enters port. First division is the identity of the ship. I'm guessing that at least one-third of our Navy spent some time in a deck division. Although they may have hated it at the time, they talk about it with pride later. A father recently told me he was having a hell of a time with his 19year-old son and 17-year-old daughter and couldn't wait to get rid of them. He asked if I had any teenagers. I told him I had 23 18- and 19-year old boys and girls, and wouldn't trade them for anything."

Core Values

Seaman Apprentice Bradley Stacy, 20 : "To be courageous is to be strong, and be fearless. No task is too great for you."

Seaman Apprentice Leonardo Mondragon, 19 "Courage to me is signing your name on a dotted line vowing to make a commitment to serve your country in the Navy. It is being able to take the first big step straight out of high school and into the real world, trying to make it on your own. It means leaving family and friends back home and going to work and live with people you have never seen before in your life-in a very confined space at that. Courage also is being able to perform assigned duties well, but at the same time knowing that we are battle ready and could go to war at any given time. Courage is also getting under way and being able to sleep at night knowing you can depend on your shipmates to handle any emergency."

Seaman Apprentice Jeremy Blake, 22 : "Honor means [playing it straight, and] you take pride in how you look, how hard you work, and what people think your work looks like. Also it means that you put everything you have into it, so it is 110%."

Seaman Apprentice Quincy Copps, 21 : "I think being a leader is more than just pointing a finger and chewing people out. You should have way more knowledge than the people you are in charge of. Your people should be able to talk to you about personal problems, without feeling scared or embarrassed. They should also look at you in a positive way so that they should have no problem carrying out an order."

Seaman Recruit Macy Follansbee, 19 : "I believe that a person in the military should be a decent person: clean looking, high morals, and a professional attitude at work and out in town."

Seaman Apprentice Tyrone Dickens, 19 : "Civic duty, in my mind, has all the characteristics of ambassador or representative, because you are representing the U.S. Navy. How we act in public leaves a lasting perception of the Navy."

Seaman Apprentice Angelic Wheeler, 19 : "Trust is the most important thing. If you have trust, everything else will follow—no matter what."

Seaman Alejandro Saazamorano, 22 : "I believe in the challenge that I face when the time comes to try something. It is not enough just to try. What is really important is not giving up what you try. In one way or another, to try is to better make yourself ready for the next step."

Seaman Marcus Juarez, 25 : "The pursuit of excellence is very important. Not only will it help further your career, it will also make you an example for your fellow shipmates to follow. If you do every job like you're going to get a white-glove inspection afterward, your supervisors will look to you when the more important and difficult jobs come up. They will also be relieved to know that they don't have to stand there looking over your shoulder. They are confident that once you're given the job, it will be done on time and to the highest standards."

Seaman Sanford Howell, 20 : "Respect for yourself, respect toward others, and the way you act in general can all extend from your values. Values are what you get from your parents, church, and your environment. Basically, having values determines the way you act and your personality. As far as the Navy is concerned we live by the core values: honor, courage, and commitment. Have honor. Be courageous when the situation calls for it. And when a promise is made, commit to it, and stick with it." 


More by this Author

None found for this author.

Events and Conferences

None found for this author.


Conferences and Events

Maritime Security Dialogue

Wed, 2016-11-02

You are cordially invited to: The Role of Space in Maritime Operations A discussion with RADM(SEL) Christian "Boris"...

Defense Forum Washington 2016

WEST 2017

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

View All

From the Press

Guest Lecturer & Book Signing

Sun, 2016-10-30

Book Launch Party

Wed, 2016-11-02

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership