Big boots to fill in
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary A. Prill
USS Gerald R. Ford Public Affairs
NORFOLK, Virginia – As a U.S. Navy ship prepares to leave home port, many sailors say goodbye to loved ones on the pier. This is not a rare occurrence for sailors in a 20-year career; most sailors rose to the challenge of leaving loved ones on shore as their ship departed to complete the mission.
Master Chief Logistics Specialist (LSCM) Tanya McCray, the chief petty officer of the supply department of USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) (DLCPO), has done this several times, leaving his two daughters and his wife on the beach as she answered the nation’s call. Only this time, as she was set to perform Ford’s second Full Ship Impact Test (FSST) explosive event – which happened on July 16 – things were different.
After nearly 30 years of service in the Navy, LSCM McCray has done something very few Sailors will do in their careers. Underway, his 25-year-old daughter, Logistics Specialist Seaman (LSSN) Racquel McCray, assigned to USS George W. Bush (CVN 77), has been temporarily assigned to Ford for a training opportunity at sea.
LSCM McCray joined the Navy as an unnamed Seaman and was selected at the Storekeeper Rate (SK) before the ratings were merged in 2009, when SK and the Postal Clerk merged to become Logistics Specialist (LS) .
“I joined the Navy as an unnamed seaman, so I was a deckhand,” said LSCM McCray. “I was stationed in Guam on the USS Haleakala (AE 25). The ship was ready to be decommissioned so I chose a rate to go to school so I chose LS which was SK at the time. I went to SK “A” school, from there I came here to Virginia, and been here my whole career. “
On her first tour of Virginia, LSCM McCray married her husband and they had their first child. They alternated between duties at sea and ashore, facing the challenges of a two-military family as they worked their way up through the ranks and eventually both became Chief Petty Officers.
“I like challenges, I really get out of it. It was hard to be with two soldiers. I had two daughters, so I was juggling a career and family life, and it was hard to miss the holidays, birthdays and all those celebrations, ”said LSCM Mcray. “When I was away from them, away from home, I devoted all my time and energy to my career. I also took care of the sailors. There were places where I was known as “Sea Mama”. I took these opportunities, since I was away from my children, to be able to offer this mentoring tutoring to other sailors as well.
Almost 25 years later, her eldest daughter, LSSN McCray, made the decision to follow in her parents’ footsteps and pursue a career in the Navy, initially wishing to become an Information Systems (IT) Technician like her dad.
“So I joined because it was something I wanted to do since I was 18, see both of my parents doing it every day. It’s not all I know, but growing up around her, it was something I saw myself doing, ”said LSSN McCray. “I wanted to get into IT, my father was a computer scientist. I wasn’t offered IT but LS was the option they gave me, and I knew I wanted to do something my parents had [done]. “
After LS “A” school, the LSSN McCray was assigned to Bush, which is currently undergoing maintenance in the Norfolk Naval shipyard. As a new LS in the Navy, she heard stories from her mother about Ford’s FSST and knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that she wouldn’t have with Bush, and she wanted to be part of it. It is common for sailors engaged in ship maintenance to seek out opportunities to get underway with operational vessels, and LSSN McCray has set that goal.
“In fact, she asked me to come on the ship. She saw the pictures of Shock One and thought it was so cool that she wanted to do this. She joined the Navy to have these experiences, ”said LSCM McCray. “She said she wished she could start, she spoke to her DLCPO and they did. The next thing we know she had [temporary] orders and walked aboard with me Monday morning.
This opportunity allowed LSSN McCray to experience the day-to-day operations of the Navy from two perspectives. First, as a junior LS aboard an operational aircraft carrier, she is able to learn her trade and responsibilities to the crew, as well as herself to be the best sailor possible. Plus, while transiting the ship alongside her mother, she is able to see the respect that 20+ years of service – and the rank of Chief Captain – can afford a sailor, and how much a A career in the Navy can be rewarding.
“I love LS’s work, I look forward to customer service in my job. I used to work in customer service when I was in school, so I already feel good around customers. So when people come in to order their parts and they’re not there but there’s something I can do to help them, I love that part, ”said LSSN McCray.
“It’s pretty cool to walk with her. “Everyone says hello master chef,” and she greets them and I smile all the time. I feel like a proud girl, ”added LSSN McCray.
For many parents who serve in the military, a career of service for their children is always a thought on their mind. They want the best for their children but have certain expectations. Many are proud that their children are following in their footsteps to reach the same heights they have reached or even higher.
“Every mother and daughter has their moments,” said LSCM McCray. We love each other, but I hold her to certain expectations and expect her to follow them, but that’s only because I love her and want the best for her. I want her to be successful in her personal life and career. She has huge shoes to fill, and I remind her of that. I want her to be better than me; I want her to set her goals higher than mine. I know she can do it.
Apart from a Tiger Cruise or a family day aboard the ship, this course was perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity for the McCrayes. Sailors rarely have the opportunity to immerse their families and children in their daily routine.
“It’s great, this could be his last start and it’s my first. For us to be able to spend it together, it’s great, ”said LSSN McCray. “She’s kind of bringing me in and I really appreciate that. I hope I can fill his shoes, because I hope to make a career of 20 years.
Ford is in Port Naval Station Norfolk preparing for the FSST. The US Navy is crash testing new ship designs using real explosives to confirm that our warships can continue to meet demanding mission requirements under the harsh conditions they may encounter in combat.
For more information on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), visit www.dvidshub.net/unit/CVN78.