USS George H.W. Bush Officer Earns Shiphandler of the Year Honor
07 March 2023
MEDITERRANEAN SEA - Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Whelan, assistant navigation officer aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), was recently named Shiphandler of the Year by Naval Air Force, Atlantic. The award recognizes the dedicated professionals skilled at maintaining position during complex maneuvers such as underway replenishments, and maneuvering, anchoring, or mooring their platforms in all types of weather.
“It’s humbling to be selected for this award,” said Whelan. “As an aviator coming onto the bridge for the first time, everyone pulled together to show me the ropes. That sort of camaraderie is unique to aircraft carriers because we have everyone, from legal to admin to combat systems, driving the boat.”
Leading the bridge team is one of the most important duties for a navigation officer, requiring focus and precision under pressure, as well as social skills to navigate the human element.
“Andrew is easily one of the most forward-thinking officers I’ve observed,” said Cmdr. Brian Conlan, navigation officer. “His ability to position this aircraft carrier and strike group for our nation’s most important tasking has been seamless. At also critical times, he enables George H.W. Bush to stare down threats, while responding to evolving situations.”
Whelan leads the Sailors who work on the bridge with a philosophy of “attitude is everything,” and said if the crew keeps their focus on the mission, the ship, and the people they serve alongside, they will be successful in facing any challenge that comes their way.
“The culture on the bridge, right now, is awesome,” said Whelan. “This is one of the best teams I’ve ever been part of. The leadership from the top down invests their time and experience into the crew, and that sincerity shows, and it inspires Sailors to emulate those characteristics and pass it on to the next person.”
As assistant navigation officer, his duties also include creating watchbills, training the bridge teams, qualifying the officers of the deck, and coordinating and communicating with other vessels and aircraft operating in the area.
“He is constantly pushing at his own boundaries and limits, and it encourages us [the bridge team] to push ourselves as well,’ said Quartermaster 2nd Class Kole Sturm. “He stays cool under pressure, analyzing the situation, and guiding us to success.”
Whelan was also accepted into the Fleet Scholars Education Program, and is planning to obtain his master’s degree in public policy. Inspired by the lessons learned throughout his career, he is looking forward to returning to the fleet after completing the program to serve as a department head.
Whelan grew up in Greenwood, South Carolina, and commissioned as a Naval Flight Officer in 2014 with a degree in journalism from Winthrop University.
George H.W. Bush provides the national command authority flexible, tailorable warfighting capability as the flagship of a carrier strike group that maintains maritime stability and security to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests.
The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway completing a certification exercise to increase U.S. and allied interoperability and warfighting capability before a future deployment. The George H.W. Bush CSG is an integrated combat weapons system that delivers superior combat capability to deter, and if necessary, defeat America’s adversaries in support of national security. It achieves its mission by projecting the combined power of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush, CVW-7, Destroyer Squadron 26, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), and its Information Warfare Commander.
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