Crackerjack celebration: DINFOS observes Navy’s 242nd birthday with creative flair

Navy instructors and students at the Defense Information School pose for a group photo on Oct. 13 with a goat, which is standing in as the Navy mascot, during the weeklong celebration of the Navy’s 242nd birthday. (U.S. Navy photos by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas F. Cottone)

By MCC (SW/AW) Kristina “Kat” Moore, DINFOS Public Affairs Office

This year, Navy instructors and students at the Defense Information School celebrated the Navy’s birthday a little differently.

The weeklong celebration, which culminated Oct. 13, began with the unveiling of a display case and mural commemorating the Navy’s 242-year history.

Featuring donations accumulated over several years, the display case included enlisted “crackerjacks” complete with old piping and buttons, dungarees, and unit identification marks from some of the commands where DINFOS Sailors, both past and present, have been stationed.

Celebratory events throughout the week introduced the joint school to mock “bull’s eyes,” the large photoluminescent plaques Sailors use to mark compartments and areas aboard ships; blue and gold paper streamers representing securing for sea; and a physical training session designed to show DINFOS personnel various evolutions aboard a ship, like heaving lines.

“I am always impressed with the scope and creativity of Navy squidlets,” said Army Col. Martin Downie, the commandant of DINFOS, using a term borrowed from a senior chief petty officer he worked with when he first assumed command of DINFOS.

“The Navy does it with a certain panache that’s unmatched by the other services.”

Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Bruce Colkitt, the oldest Sailor at the Defense Information School, and Seaman Recruit Michael Hazlett (right), the youngest Sailor at DINFOS, cut the cake Oct. 13 during the DINFOS ceremony commemorating the 242nd Navy birthday.

Events also included a “flash mob” of Sailors singing “Anchors Aweigh.” More than 150 Sailors stretched across the command’s atrium, symbolizing generations of Naval service. The flash mob ranged from 18-year old new accessions recently reporting from boot camp to seasoned, retired Sailors, commonly referred to as “old salts.”

The celebration week culminated with a group photo in front of DINFOS, complete with a live goat standing as the Navy mascot, followed by the Navy birthday ceremony.

The guest speaker, Master Chief Mass Communication Spc. Jon McMillan, the senior enlisted adviser to the Navy’s chief of information, spoke about how Navy Sailors, “think different.”

“Creativity, design and story are natural components of our history and heritage,” he said. “Our Navy history has so many amazing stories of those who dared to think different. … We are not afraid to innovate or try something new.”

In an effort to have the feeling of being on a ship getting underway, DINFOS Sailors turned the student-filled hall near the ceremony into a ceremonial quarterdeck, allowing DINFOS staff, faculty and guests to experience “coming aboard” a ship.

Chief Mass Communication Spc. Chad Runge assumed the watch as the officer of the deck in order to call “DINFOS, arriving,” “first call to colors” and many other daily calls usually reserved for shipboard operations.

“It’s not every day that USS DINFOS sets sail,” said Runge, “but it was great being able to get her underway this morning. It allowed the school’s Soldiers and Airmen an opportunity to experience Navy life and, also, to get a little salt on their uniforms.”

The week highlighting Navy history and tradition allowed DINFOS Sailors a different way to share experiences of being a Sailor with their fellow DINFOS staffers and faculty members.

“It’s especially important at the schoolhouse,” Downie said. “It is vital to ensure history and tradition are honored and kept vibrant for the next generation. The spirit of our predecessors has to be passed on.”

Downie said it’s incumbent on the current cadre members to add their own flavor and special contribution to that history because they are part of it.

Closing out his comments during the ceremony, McMillan left the guests a charge.

“The challenge for each of you now is to embrace your role and keep learning to become a master of your craft,” McMillan said. “So, you can be the crazy one, the round peg in the square hole, the one who sees things differently.”

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