By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sara Eshleman
Nearly 20 Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) participated in the E6 Navy-wide advancement exam Sept. 6, 2018.
The 175 question multiple choice exam tests both professional rate-specific and general military knowledge. Preparation for the exam – whether it is ensuring the proper number of exams are ordered or providing the necessary test-taking tools (calculators, protractors, rulers) – is a monumental task that is felt most resonantly within the ship’s administrative office.
“It’s a lot of preparation and planning,” said Personnel Specialist 1st Class Russ Oxby. “It starts months ahead of the actual exam. You start by identifying eligible candidates based on their time-in-rate, to include those who are eligible for a time-in-rate waiver. Next you’ve got to order their exams, and at sea that can be a stressful proposition especially if your ship is operating in remote areas. As we’re doing this, we are also preparing the worksheets. This consists of perusing documents like the evaluations that fall within the specified dates of the exam’s [naval administrative], verifying awards or individual augmentee points, and always double checking your work to ensure accuracy. It is vital that the administrative department stays proactive throughout the whole process because it will avoid re-work when the results come back a couple of months later.”
Fire Controlman (Aegis) 2nd Class David Jones is one such Sailor. Jones is taking the E6 exam for the first time.
“I did a lot of things that most people usually do,” said Jones, referring to his course of preparation to take the exam. “I looked at my bibliographies and then I made a basic military requirement account and I bought the study guide. The study guide had thousands of questions in it, so I narrowed it down to specific chapters. On top of that, I also asked as many first classes as I could what their experiences were with taking the first class exam. I also asked my chiefs – things to look for and I also, just for my rate in particular, I used the knowledge that I’ve gained being on the ship.”
According to Jones who has completed nearly six years of service, advancement rates for fire controlmen (FC) bottleneck at E5, and become highly competitive. Though he notices that the rate goes up slightly for promotion to E6, the competition remains stiff, as those vying for 1st class have many years and therefore more experience in the Navy.
“They gave me good tips on little things,” said Jones in reference to the advice he received from his E6 FC mentors, “like don’t forget you’re not taking the test to become an FC1 or a GM1 or whatever, you’re taking a test to become a 1st class petty officer. So there are other things you will have to do during the day as a 1st class, not just as your rate, which is something I started teaching people as a career counselor.”
Oxby has had similar experiences in his own journey to becoming a 1st class, and he is now able to mentor junior Sailors in their pursuit of advancement success.
“The Navy gives you everything you need to advance,” said Oxby. “And it all falls on the Sailor to go out there and go get it. This is the one occasion where I can honestly say money does grow on trees because the Navy hands you the bibliography and the topics and subtopics – get out there and go study.”
Bulkeley, homeported at Naval Station Norfolk, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa.