PACIFIC OCEAN – More than 100 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and from colleges around the country embarked the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) to experience life on a Navy vessel during Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010.

The Midshipmen took part in a month- long summer cruise, a once in a lifetime opportunity to live and work on an amphibious assault warship before becoming commissioned officers.

“This program is important because it’s one of the only times they will be able to see and take part in what happens on the deck plates first hand,” said Ens. Amanda Brenner, Engineering Division Officer and Midshipmen Program Co-coordinator. “As a Midshipman, I also went on a summer cruise on the Bonhomme Richard. Our goal is for them to familiarize themselves with Navy life and to learn about the daily operations on board a ship at sea, just like how officers and enlisted personnel did for me just a couple of years ago.”

The Midshipmen embarked in San Diego and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and were immediately paired up with both a Bonhomme Richard officer as a sponsor and Sailors from various divisions as running mates.

While on board, they completed an orientation with the supply, navigation, medical and engineering departments. Each midshipman was also responsible for completing a basic personnel qualifications standard and learning the functions and duties of their own damage control fire training team.

“At first it was a bit overwhelming, and I had so many questions about everything,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Caroline O’Dwyer, a native of Mclean, Va. and University of Virginia Nursing Student. “But everyone has been so helpful. The medical department as well as the rest of the ship has been enthusiastic and positive about the Mids being here. I’m definitely enjoying my time on board.”

Midshipman 2nd Class Zachary Wilkey, a native of Pittsburgh, PA., and University of Colorado student claimed that even Mids that have been underway with other ships have learned some valuable lessons during RIMPAC.

“I hope to become a force protection officer and by being on a bigger platform ship, I was able to ask questions and gather information about the field. More importantly, I was able to visit with various departments and find out about what other options I have to pursue a naval career,” said Wilkey. “It was very cool to interact with the Canadians, Australians, Tongans and Malaysians embarked for the exercise.”

The Mids not only observed, but also took part in many of the evolutions and stood various watches with their running mates and peers throughout Bonhomme Richard. The program was designed to help them engage in the ship’s underway routine and ultimately give them insight on how to transition from college students to Naval officers in the fleet.

“The one thing we hope the Midshipmen take away from this experience is a solid working knowledge of the surface warfare community, and the confidence to share and use it when they get to the fleet,” said Brenner.

Midshipman 3rd Class Ian Sonnenberg, a native of Vernon Hills, IL and a U.S. Naval Academy midshipman said Bonhomme Richard went above and beyond the basic requirements of a summer cruise and he is extremely excited about his future in the Navy.

“My experience here has been like a dream come true,” said Sonnenberg. “Ever since the third grade, I have imagined being a naval aviator and for the last couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to actually be around the aircraft and spend time with the pilots and crew. I couldn’t have chosen a better ship for my summer cruise.”

Submitted by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Ebalo

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