The Navy Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) hosted a group of 24 Congressional and Senatorial staff members for a visit to Jacksonville area installations to learn more about programs the Navy offers and to gain insight into the day-to-day life of their constituent service members.
The three-day visit included stops at Naval Station Mayport and Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax), along with briefs from Navy Personnel Command, Navy Recruiting Command, Recruit Training Com-mand and the Board for Correction of Naval Records.
“These workshops are a Navy 101, designed to provide the tools and knowledge to help staffers connect with their constituents who serve in the Navy,” said OLA coordinator Lt. David Zivnuska.
“The visit also gives the staffers an opportunity to network with each other and talk about some common questions and issues they all experience.”
The staffers are responsible for following up on inquiries from Sailors, civilians and family members who contact their senator or representative regarding a myriad of issues.
“Having the opportunity to meet with Sailors and learn about programs the Navy offers, provides a valuable insight to support their daily work,” Zivnuska added.
The visit kicked off with a Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) brief at Naval Station Mayport. FFSC Director Amie McKague and installation Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Susan Bartley talked about the services they provide to Sailors in the tri-base area. McKague provided an overview of programs like New Parent Support, Family Advocacy and Sailor Resiliency.
Zivnuska said it’s important for staffers to understand that the Navy has a place for Sailors and their families to turn to when they are facing challenges.
USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) hosted the group for lunch with Sailors on the mess decks and a tour of the ship. Elena Sassaman, from Delaware Sen. Christopher Coons’ office, said she was impressed by the attitude of everyone on board.
“The ensign who led our tour was so welcoming and knowledgeable, and the commanding officer took time to greet us when we arrived,” she said.
The second day of the visit included briefs from larger Navy commands that frequently have a role in answering congressional inquiries. Noel Sengco, from Recruit Training Command, said parents often contact their representatives with concerns about their son or daughter in initial Navy training. “Providing an overview helps these staffers, who are hearing directly from parents, have a better understanding of the recruit training process,” said Sengco.
Zivnuska said the briefs go a long way toward building relationships between the staffers and the people who directly answer the inquiries.
“It was great to put a face with a name,” said Jared Bosman, who works for California Democrat Rep. Pete Aguilar. “Making these contacts will help me know where to send a question the first time and get an answer faster.”
The group headed to NAS Jax on the final day, kicking off the morning with a brief from the installation commanding officer, followed by an overview of civilian human resources at Navy Region Southeast (NRSE). Cruz Belardo, NRSE Regional program director for Labor and Employee Relations, provided insight into common inquiries received from civil service employees.
A visit to Patrol Squadron 16 wrapped up the visit, with the opportunity to learn about the P-8 mission and speak with squadron members.
Zivnuska said the feedback was positive and the overall visit was a great success.
“Having the opportunity to educate congressional casework staff members from local district offices on Navy issues relevant to their constituent casework and to give them a better understanding of Navy practices, infrastructure and requirements, is a great win-win for everyone involved.”