Lt. junior grade Marrisa Sunderland, a native of Kearney, joined the Navy for the opportunities the military offers.
"The big thing for me was job stability,” said Sunderland. “As I approached the end of college I knew I wanted to have something lined up immediately after. The Navy was a great next step.”
Now, two years later, Sunderland is part of the most innovative tactics at Surface Warfare Officers School.
“SWOS is a wonderful equalizer,” said Sunderland. “During surface warfare officers’ first tour of duty we are just figuring things out. Before our second tour, we come to SWOS to increase our knowledge and skills so that we are prepared to lead other sailors in a uniform way.”
According to Sunderland, the values required to succeed in the military are similar to those found in Kearney.
“I grew up in a small town,” she said. “Every Friday we would go to the football game. Neighbors said ‘hello’ to each other on the street. There was a sense of community. The Navy also has that same sense of community and camaraderie. On a ship, you’re always saying ‘good morning’ to others like you would in my little hometown. I think the Navy is just one really large small town. Then, when you move up in rank, all the officers, commanders, etc. know each other because they advanced together in their Navy careers. They've stuck it out together and so they all have this respect for each other. They understand each other’s experiences, difficulties and accomplishments. There’s an unbreakable bond there.”
Sunderland, a 2013 graduate of Kearney High School, said surface warfare officers are like managers.
“We watch over everything and everyone. As we advance in rank, our knowledge and responsibilities grow too, until we eventually reach the end goal of captaining our own ship. While there are managerial positions in most businesses and operations, having the chance to serve as a surface warfare officer offers a unique perk. Not only are we overseeing others and maintaining a functional workspace, but we are also responsible for driving a ship.”
Once service members finish training they are deployed around the world, putting their skills to work aboard Navy ships such as aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, amphibious warfare ships, mine warfare ships and littoral combat ships.
Serving as a surface warrior requires a combination of dedication and sacrifice, but Sunderland believes the accomplishments achieved along the way make the hard work worth it.
“... When I first learned the qualification process it was overwhelming. Surface warfare officers have to know a little bit about everything so that we can maintain our ship and sailors’ well-being. During our boards, we’re asked questions that prove we are ready to do just that," she said.