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    Under Instruction: Earning the Yellow Shirt



    Story by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kaleb Sarten 

    USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69)

    From the moment a Sailor arrives aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), getting qualified becomes a major priority. Gaining proficiency in all the tasks they are asked to do is a journey that takes up an immense share of time and effort. As a result, Sailors often take a great deal of pride in earning their qualifications.
    For aviation boatswain’s mates (handling), however, one qualification in particular stands above the rest as a highly visible badge of honor for those who work hard to learn their job—Plane Director.
    Known by their distinctive yellow shirts, plane directors are responsible for directing aircraft on the flight deck and hangar bays. In order to earn this responsibility, ABHs must first earn numerous other qualifications before beginning an under instruction (U/I) phase.
    “It’s like starting at the bottom and working your way to the top,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Christopher Sherman, who is currently under instruction to earn his yellow shirt aboard Ike.
    Before one can begin their U/I phase, they must complete a host of other qualifications, which can take anywhere from a few months to a year for some.
    One of the hurdles Sherman faced, like many other ABHs, was the operational status of the ship. In 2018, while Ike was in Portsmouth undergoing its planned incremental availability, there were no flight operations taking place, so there was no way to gain the experience necessary to understand how a flight deck works.
    “Luckily for me, they were able to send me TAD to other carriers so that I could get a lot of those other qualifications completed,” said Sherman. “And now that Ike is getting back out to sea, I get to do my U/I with the actual people I’m going to work with.”
    ABHs are like a fellowship, said Sherman, so he finds it important to be able to learn from and work with his crew, gaining knowledge and building bonds along the way.
    Sherman said he felt humbled when he was first told that he could start his U/I process. To him, it meant that his chain of command was willing to put their faith and trust in him to do the job right.
    Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st class Eric Mattone said before someone can become a yellow shirt they must demonstrate clear judgement and an exceptional level of knowledge.
    “Decision making and knowledge are critical to what we do,” said Mattone. “Ultimately it’s up to us to decide when someone is ready based on how well they display those characteristics.”
    The U/I process can be arduous. At the daily yellow shirt meetings, UIs are assigned homework—usually finding the instruction that describes how to handle a particular situation. They must also learn how to act as a safety observer and how to properly judge how much clearance an aircraft has, said Sherman.
    The U/I process is capped by a rigorous oral board, which can often last hours.
    “On the flight deck, everyone’s safety is in our hands,” said Mattone. “So, it’s critical that we test their knowledge exhaustively, to ensure they know the job as thoroughly as possible.”
    While Sherman said that he is nervous for the board, he said he is trying to remain focused on demonstrating as much initiative as possible until the chain of command decides he is ready.
    According to Mattone, though earning the yellow shirt may seem like a finish line, it is only the beginning. Sailors like Sherman will still be responsible for maintaining knowledge while pursuing further qualifications, but they will have the privilege of doing so while wearing the yellow shirt with pride.



    Date Taken: 06.12.2019
    Date Posted: 06.12.2019 16:20
    Story ID: 327058
    Location: NORFOLK, VA, US 

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    Under Instruction: Earning the Yellow Shirt