The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) (TR) held the first ever "Bridge Talks" to kick off U.S. Pacific Fleet's (PACFLT) new program "The Bridge," April 12.
The Bridge is a program designed to give all Sailors, regardless of rank or experience, an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas for improving the Navy.
According to PACFLT, "The Bridge is a belief and a commitment. The belief that the best idea can come from anywhere, and a commitment that no Sailor is ever alone in pursuing a solution."
Rear Adm. Jay Bynum, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, addressed the Theodore Roosevelt crew following the event.
"If you read the Navy design for maintaining maritime superiority, this is an urgency," said Bynum. "An existential urgency for the United States Navy
that we accelerate our learning, that we innovate, and that we create a culture where we hear from the people closest to the problem. They are poised to help us solve problems."
Bridge Talks, a relaxed, open-discussion format presented and implemented by Cmdr. Jeremy Vellon, allows Sailors to share their ideas and missions in a non-judgmental environment.
"I'm thrilled with the Sailors' reactions to the event," said Vellon. "I hope Sailors feel more comfortable engaging across ranks, across ships and across commands. I have a feeling the innovators aboard the TR will continue to grow with this program. As The Bridge finds its way around the fleet, it may take on different forms, but I think it's important to allow for that."
Ideas could not only change life aboard the Theodore Roosevelt but could potentially impact the entire Navy. If selected, participants may earn a trip to PACFLT, headquartered in Pearl Harbor, to present their idea during a Commander Conference Pitchfest.
Four ideas pitched at Pitchfest during the pilot program are currently in the process of becoming operational. Those ideas included a pilot internship program, polar plot whiz wheel, cyber impact assessment and expeditionary maintenance capability.
Operations Specialist 1st Class Thomas Bauer, assigned to CSG9, presented his concept for better mentorship and individual treatment of Sailors in the Navy.
"I believe in making Sailors the best they can be, not the best we think they should be," said Bauer. "We have the most technologically advanced and brightest Sailors the Navy has ever seen, but with that comes new challenges that affect the way we, as a Navy, must operate moving forward. Sailors are not things we can impose our past or predispositions on. We must strive to reinforce the Navy's mission while also acknowledging the different leadership styles that will be necessary for the future."
The Bridge program has no limitations on topic. The mission is to hear and consider all ideas, no matter how broad or specific.
Electronics Technician 2nd Class Bethany Littlemoses, the final speaker at the event, introduced a more specific concept of a new and improved transitioning program for newly promoted petty officers. The program focuses on rate and rank specific leadership requirements to better prepare individual Sailors to serve aboard the Theodore Roosevelt.
"This was absolutely phenomenal to be a part of," said Littlemoses. "I couldn't be more honored to be asked to share my idea and I hope others will share theirs. Sailors should feel empowered and unafraid. Leadership wants to hear what we have to say."
Following the event, Sailors of all ranks, officer and enlisted, came together to enjoy an ice cream social and discuss the presented topics, as well as their newly sparked ideas.
"We're here to solve issues, to get better with resources, to take care of our people, and to empower them to become more capable Sailors so we can solve problems," said Bynum.
By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Rachael Treon, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) Public Affairs