In the Navy of old, leaders were viewed as distant and salty,
with only one concern in mind: getting the job done. But, as the
Navy evolved over the years, so have its Sailors. Leaders are just
as human as the people that serve under them and have all dealt with
their share of change.
One such Sailor is Senior Chief
Gunner’s Mate James Hoppa. Currently stationed aboard the
multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), Hoppa is in
charge of maintaining the ship’s armory and the upkeep of the
January 19, 2017 - Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate James Hoppa, from
Waupaca, Wisconsin, with a rifle in the armory of the
amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The ship is underway
conducting Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) with the
Bataan Amphibious Ready Group in preparation for an upcoming
deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd
Class Evan Thompson)
After a decade and a half of service to the Navy, Hoppa
has become adjusted to operating in fast-paced workplaces
like the ones present aboard Bataan. It wasn’t always smooth
sailing for Hoppa, however.
As a native of Waupaca,
Wisconsin, a community of roughly 5,000 people and raised in
a small-town setting. Joining the Navy brought on rapid
change for him.
“It was definitely a big adjustment,”
said Hoppa about joining the Navy. “You’re used to knowing
everybody, and going from that to even living in a bigger
city is quite the change.”
Hoppa said after he
graduated from high school, he didn’t see himself going to
college, and thought the only way to break away from the
small-town life was to join the military. After 15 years in
the Navy, Hoppa still enjoys his job as much as he did when
he picked Gunner’s Mate when he enlisted in June 2002.
My job is essentially maintenance and upkeep of all the
weapons onboard the ship and making sure we can meet
whatever mission is thrown at us,” said Hoppa. “I wouldn’t
want to do any other job, I don’t see myself doing anything
other than being a Gunner’s Mate.”
In addition to
running Bataan’s armory, Hoppa is also in charge of
overseeing the ship’s Small Caliber Assessment Team, which
is an integrated team consisting of Hoppa’s nine Sailors and
a number of Marines from the embarked 24th Marine
Expeditionary Unit tasked with standing guard during
operations such as strait transits.
currently underway conducting Composite Training Unit
Exercise (COMPTUEX), a pre-deployment training exercise,
known for having a hectic and fluid schedule. The ship’s
crew of Sailors and Marines are out to sea, subject to
constant drills and exercises to ensure all departments and
divisions aboard are prepared for their upcoming combat
To add to the stress, Hoppa’s wife of
nearly 5 years is home in Virginia with twins on the way.
“It’s been very difficult to be gone during this
workup cycle while my wife is going through the pregnancy,”
To relieve all that stress and relax, Hoppa
took up surfing while stationed at his last command, Naval
Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex.
“I really started
surfing around 2007 or 2008,” said Hoppa. “I was stationed
at Naval Base Dam Neck right on the water so I picked it up.
I really enjoy it, and it’s kind of my way to get lost and
forget the stress.”
When most Sailors reach the
15-year mark of enlisted service, they consider packing up
their sea bags for the final time. Hoppa, on the other hand,
submitted a Warrant Officer package this year, hoping to
ascend the rank ladder once more.
“I have a Warrant
Officer package in this year,” said Hoppa. “Depending on how
that goes, that may take me to 20 years, or it may take me
By U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Thompson
Comment on this article