Operation Crush COVID Week 3: One Ship, One Crew

Come aboard Battleship IOWA and you’re likely to hear that phrase. It’s our credo, the core of our culture. We say it, we live it. What does it mean?

It means we don’t care if you’re volunteer or paid staff, a tour guide or a member of the ops team – whatever your role, we’re family and we’re all in this wonderful endeavor that is Battleship IOWA Museum together. We have one another’s backs, we step up to support each other and the ship, and we get the job done. It’s a fairly remarkable mindset, and we do all in our power to protect it.

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That mindset is why this week’s topic – VOLUNTEERS – is a tough one. We have a hundreds-deep list of remarkable volunteers, each with a matchless story. Picking just a few to highlight is a challenge, but one we don’t mind having.

Our starting point is easy, though. Volunteer programs are built on passion and heart, and the heart of IOWA’s lives inside our volunteer coordinator.

Sue Schmidt, Volunteer Coordinator

Sue (left) has been with IOWA since the ship was rescued from the “ghost fleet” in late 2011. Always there with willing ear and welcoming smile (or hug in non-COVID times), she leads the volunteer program with a caring personal touch.

This self-professed “peace and love hippy-chick” never could’ve imagined herself working on a battleship, but what she discovered was “an absolutely stellar group of people who befriended me, challenged me, and opened my eyes to my own unacknowledged biases about a world with which I was unfamiliar.”

When she was first hired, she felt like she’d been given “an alien city” and asked to populate it. Populate it she has, with a diverse group of amazing people.

“It’s a cast of characters that brings tremendous passion, talent, grit, and drive to their efforts on the ship. They are knowledgeable, quirky, inspired, and fun! They bring a wealth of experience and a broad array of backgrounds and perspectives – many quite different from my own, but that’s the beauty of it.

“[With IOWA] I found an open, welcoming environment, and a community that is bonded through service (a bit like the military in that sense, the ultimate “melting pot”). What I have learned is not only the value, but the necessity of spending real, quality time with people that have different experiences and perspectives. We don’t learn and grow as people if we only surround ourselves with voices that reflect our own and opinions that support what we think we already know. I have found friendship and warmth and humor in a group that I never would have known if it weren’t for the IOWA. It’s constantly morphing, and sometimes messy, but it is a family. What a gift.”

“Electric Bill” Weinberg, Volunteer, Richmond

In 2011 Bill Weinberg paid $10 to tour a battleship that had just been liberated from exile. He fell in love with her instantly and as he prepared to walk off the ship, on a whim he asked a volunteer, “Do you need an electrician?” The volunteer immediately radioed Sue, and next thing Bill knew, he had been overwhelmed by Sue’s enthusiasm and had signed up to volunteer. He showed up the day the ship got shore power and began work on her electrical systems. He says being an IOWA volunteer has been one of the high points of his life.

“The IOWA is my home, her crew is my family.

“Unlike other museum ships I’ve visited, the IOWA welcomes volunteers, trains them and gives them both responsibility and ownership of their chosen area of contribution. The PBC [Pacific Battleship Center] is a great example of how to harness many people’s energy.”

Jim McGlothlin, Tour Guide

Jim signed up as a volunteer when IOWA came to the Port of Los Angeles in 2012. As a retiree, he feels the ship provides an attachment to his life experience. He feels the ship is a “very tangible exhibit of our U.S. commitment to freedom” and maintains a lifeline to our nation’s experience and purpose.

“I engage the visitors, asking them: ‘Look at the 17” of steel. This is tangible. Not a smartphone app or image. Why did someone invest in this IOWA?’

“How else can we preserve the history of our Navy and the people, with regard to challenges to the U.S. philosophy for freedom and individual initiative?”

We once posed a question to the crew: what would you do if the ship were no longer here? Answers varied, but the theme was the same: this ship has become such an integral part of our lives, we’d feel as though we’d lost both a loved one and a piece of ourselves.

Any sailor worth some amount of salt will tell you that you can feel something in the air when you walk onto a good ship – you know immediately that you’re home. A large element in the creation of that feeling of home is your shipmates.

IOWA is home, her volunteers are family, and we need your help to keep that family strong and healthy. Please support Operation Crush COVID today.

And if you’re looking for a way to give back, a way to connect, a way to be a part of something special, come volunteer with us. Join this extraordinary crew.



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