October 27, 2016, PHILIPPINE SEA (NNS) – Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) trains their Sailors in many areas of expertise, one of which is the enlisted surface warfare (ESWS) qualification program.
This rigorous program is often a top priority for many Sailors when they first check on board their ship.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Justin Wollet is qualified as a field medical service technician, a navy enlisted classification code (NEC) that allows enlisted medical personnel to work in the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) and attach to U.S. Marine Corps units. While he says he’s proud to work with the Marines and he hopes to become as well qualified in his job as possible, but earning an ESWS qualification didn’t seem like it was in the cards.
Once designated as FMF, Sailors don’t always get the opportunity to transfer to a Navy ship. More often than not, FMF Sailors are assigned to Marine Corps units and spend the majority of their time on what is endearingly referred to as “the green side.”
Wollet was previously assigned to Marine Corps Logistics Command out of Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. His orders to Curtis Wilbur marked the first time being assigned to a ship in his four years of naval service.
“I’d never been to the ‘blue side’ (Sailors embarked on ships) of the Navy, so I took orders to a ship out of curiosity,” said Wollet. “It was an adjustment, but I learned so many new things and it gave me a wider scope of knowledge and responsibility in my rate. I essentially learned how to be a lance corporal, doing working parties, [and] working out. I did not use my [medical] knowledge in my daily job, except for sick call and field medicine. Being on the ship has shown me there is a lot more to my job than just sick call.”
When he stepped aboard Curtis Wilbur, Wollet set a goal to earn his ESWS qualification as soon as possible. Once qualified, Sailors wears a designation pin on their uniform which signifies this educational and proficient achievement.
Earning a ESWS pin requires Sailors to complete personnel qualification standards (PQS) for the ship’s maintenance and material management system (3M), basic and advanced damage control, and in-port and underway deck watch qualifications. Once those prerequisites are complete, a Sailor must complete a common core and platform specific PQS book before taking a test over the material. The final step is to complete two oral examination boards given by ESWS-qualified subject matters experts. Passing the exams, oral boards, and earning the respect of peers along the way is a process that can take months of studying and memorization.
From start to finish, Wollet earned his ESWS in six months. He said it was a process he’ll never forget.
“For me, warfare devices are like a badge of pride,” he explained. “As an FMF corpsman, there’s not very many of us that go to ships, so getting an ESWS pin is very desirable.”
Wollet’s next duty station will be at the U.S. Marine Corps School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Curtis Wilbur is on patrol in the East China Sea supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.