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THS administrators experience Navys Educator at Sea program
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Eric Swanson and Marie Peterson pause for a photo on the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan CVN 76 where they experienced the daily operations upon a Naval aircraft carrier. - photo by Photo Contributed

Last week Turlock High School principal Marie Peterson and counselor Eric Swanson missed three days of school, but not for typical reasons that educators are often gone such as conferences or trainings. This time, they were far out at sea on a Naval aircraft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Peterson and Swanson were just two of the 16 distinguished visitors from across the country in the U.S. Navy’s Educator at Sea program, which allows educators insight into the Navy’s daily operations on a flight carrier and cultivates awareness and appreciation for the military.

“I think that the Navy understands that educators play an important role in recommending a military career to students, so any way they can show us the real-world aspect of the military is important,” said Peterson.

Peterson and Swanson flew 100 miles off the coast of San Diego and landed upon the USS Ronald Reagan CVN 76 Naval aircraft carrier which is anchored off the coast of San Diego and has over 4,500 men and women on board. While aboard, they witnessed other arrivals on the flight deck, spoke with officers and sailors, dined with the admiral, learned about air carrier qualification trainings and cultivated an overall appreciation and understanding of the Navy’s integral role in the U.S. Military.

“What I noticed is that these young men and women really take ownership of their job. It doesn’t matter if they are in hotel services or cooking your food, they do it to the best of their ability. There is no halfway doing anything. They really take pride in it,” said Swanson.

Both Peterson and Swanson noticed the young age of the sailors on board, noting that individuals as young as 19 years old played important roles on board such as steering the $4.5 billion dollar ship. Seeing parallels between the young sailors on the naval aircraft carrier and the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, or NJROTC, students at THS enhanced the administrators’ experience. Upon her return, Peterson shared her experience at the annual THS NJROTC Ball where she lent current students insight into the military lifestyle that they may one day enter.

 “I thought it was really cool because last year I went on a sea cruise and it was really cool to hear the similarities and the differences between her experience and how it compared to mine,” said Rebecca Adams, a senior who will be entering the Marine Corps as a cook next year.

More than an adventurous reprieve from school, Peterson and Swanson’s experience generated a deeper understanding of their role in the future of naval officers at their campus.  

“One of the best things about the program is the fact that the staff backs the NJROTC program 100 percent. They can see the value in teaching a leadership course for high school students and our big thing is to teach cadets real life scenarios on what’s going to happen to them when they leave high school,” said Major Kelly Cross, retired Marine Corps and NJROTC instructor.