Viking at sea: Valencia High teacher lives on a Navy ship for a day 

Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo
Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo
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Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove had some preconceived notions about the Navy. 

As one of the 13 lucky people chosen from across the country to take part in the Leaders to Sea program, Ostrove had the chance to spend an entire day and night on a naval ship last week. He thought he knew what he was going to see. 

“I think my expectations were to kind of see a lot of people maybe not so happy, kind of disgruntled,” Ostrove said in a phone interview with The Signal, “people that maybe felt like they didn’t have any other options, so they were forced into the Navy or essentially be homeless.” 

It didn’t take him very long to figure out how wrong he was. 

“It was the exact opposite of what I saw,” Ostrove said. “These were people that, I wouldn’t say they love their job, because it’s hard work and they’re working long hours, no matter what they’re doing, but they really had respect and appreciation for their job. And they were incredibly responsible and committed to it.” 

Valencia High School teacher spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo
Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo

As a computer science teacher at Valencia, Ostrove was especially interested in the cybersecurity experts, programmers and technicians who were working on the ship, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. 

“The Navy is considered the technical wing of the military,” Ostrove said. “So, it was kind of a cool experience to be able to meet with all levels of people on the ship and hear their story about why they got in the Navy.” 

The program was sent Ostrove’s way in December when Valencia Principal Pete Getz sent the application out to all of the teachers at the school. After sending in his application, Ostrove, who is in his second tour of duty at the school, assumed that he was not selected with only two weeks to go until it was supposed to take place. 

It was around that time that Ostrove was told that he was selected out of 13 applicants from his region. 

“I think I got really lucky,” he said. 

According to the Navy’s website, the Leaders to Sea program “provides influential community leaders, business executives, political leaders, media executives, educators, and other centers of influence with insight into the daily operations of a Navy ship at sea.” 

Ostrove and the other participants left for Naval Base Coronado on Jan. 25 and were flown out to the ship via a U.S. Marines helicopter. Ostrove said the military plane that was supposed to take them to the ship, the V-22 Osprey, was grounded due to an accident elsewhere, but the Marines were willing to provide the transportation for the one-hour, 100-mile trip. 

Valencia High School teacher spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo
Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo

While on the ship, Ostrove got to meet with some of the 5,000 crew members who live on it. One of the more interesting conversations he had was with the commanding officer, who told Ostrove that, despite some of the challenges, the Navy is willing to work with its members who want to be stationed near their family. 

“He went through this whole thing about it and how they make it work,” Ostrove said. “And I guess it wasn’t an uncommon story, like it’s a pretty common thing. The Navy kind of works hard to make sure that if you want to be in a certain location because that’s where your family is, they do what they can to get you there.” 

The group was also given access to many of the daily tasks that crew members perform, taking about 30 minutes with each department to see how those people do their jobs. Some of those jobs include: cooks; pilots; mechanics; baristas; and IT. 

Ostrove said he was amazed at how many different types of workers it takes to keep a Navy ship afloat, and also that the average crew member was 22 years old. 

Some of the crew members were also working on undergraduate or other types of degrees in order to attain higher ranks. They were able to do this, Ostrove said, because the USS Abraham Lincoln is the only ship in the Navy that has Starlink, allowing them to access the internet wherever the ship may be. 

What Ostrove learned from his experience is that the Navy can be a pathway for those looking to put their college degrees to good use or for those who may not know what their future holds. 

Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo
Valencia High School teacher Jerry Ostrove spent a day on a naval ship as part of the Leaders to Sea program. Courtesy photo

“I’m a huge advocate now,” Ostrove said. “I think for a lot of people, that is a great option post-high school, compared to maybe going to a community college and kind of spinning your wheels and not doing what you want to do. That’s four years where you can really get your GI Bill and hone in some skills and gain some maturity and responsibilities that maybe you didn’t have.” 

And if you don’t want to make the Navy a lifelong career? Ostrove said what the crew members learn with the Navy would help them in whatever field they choose to move on to. 

One of the most important jobs, Ostrove said, is whoever is in charge of pushing the button to launch the fighter jets. 

“If you think about it, this person is like 19, 20, 21 years old, and if they do that wrong, they just cost the Navy like $300 million,” Ostrove said. “Where in the rest of the world does somebody of that age have that kind of responsibility and learn that kind of maturity? The growth that happens in that small amount of time has to be incredible.” 

And while those young people may not have a college education — or simply have yet to complete their education while also serving — Ostrove said the need for intelligent young people to enlist is strong. 

“One of the things that the Navy is really focused on, because they’re the technical branch, is they want high-level people,” Ostrove said. “They don’t want the ‘I-barely-passed-high-school’ kind of students; they want the AP student that is going to be a nuclear engineer or be a cybersecurity person or something like that. That’s what they’re hoping to find.” 

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