The past year has been a trying one and just about every member of our Navy family has been tested in ways that go well beyond the typical, already-challenging aspects of serving our nation. While hope is on the horizon, the New Year offers new challenges.
Staying connected to shipmates, family, and friends is more vital to our well-being than ever – especially so for blue jackets just finding their sea legs.
The creators of a new podcast aim to address those issues and more with wisdom, humor, and the warmth of fellowship that is currently so difficult to attain, courtesy of a certain unpleasant coronavirus.
“Stepping Off the Brow” is a collaboration between Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Selitto, Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) command chaplain and Lt. Christina Mauntel, Carrier Air Wing Seven (CVW-7) air wing chaplain. Perhaps some credit is also due to the career detailers who had a hand in coordinating their paths to cross.
“Chaplain Christina Mauntel was my relief in my last command,” said Selitto. “In the few weeks we worked together for turnover her pithy personality and quick wit stood out. Like so many Sailors we kept in touch since I PCS’d.”
As the nation dealt with the pandemic, its economic pain, and the rest of the year’s challenges, the chaplains felt called to action. Neither had experience with podcasting, but needed a practical way to keep lines of communication open to reach Sailors and their families.
“What we knew well was sea duty,” said Selitto. “That is why we chose the title, Stepping Off the Brow. The ship’s brow is symbolic for Sailors and families. Sailors cross the brow to come to work and to leave work. Families eagerly await for the brow to get set up at the end of deployments, so their Sailor can cross it and finally come home.”
The symbolism underscores the goal of the podcast. “Our aim with the podcast is to share stories of hope and strength to our commands,” said Mauntel. “We hope these stories bring some light and life in the midst of all things Navy life and COVID by connecting these heartfelt stories.”
“The topics came up as we thought about who we knew and their stories,” added Selitto. “As chaplains, we meet interesting people all the time. We regularly hear life stories. We wanted to give a voice to those that have found a way to make good out of their challenges.”
The inaugural episode went live on Nov. 30 and featured a young Sailor who personified that quality. That first guest, Airman Steven Martinez-Aguillar, an Orlando, Florida native, is currently assigned to Airborne Command & Control Squadron (VAW) 121 at Naval Station Norfolk. Martinez-Aguillar detailed his first two years in the Navy – from boot camp to first deployment – as well as the gratitude he feels toward his family for their support.
The Navy, he said, provided him with a firm foundation on which to build his career. His decision to join the aviation community came from a general interest in the field, as well as a bit of Hollywood. “Obviously ‘Top Gun’ was an inspiration,” he said. “It’s a classic movie.”
“I think Chaplain Selitto probably saw that in the theaters because he’s old enough,” noted a wryly-smiling Mauntel.
Humor is a big part of the podcast and comprises much of the time inside and outside of the interviews. Indeed, humor is one of the many tools that can help cope with stress and a time-honored tradition for resilient Sailors. Coping skills are a recurring theme of the podcast because the nature of naval service requires building “stress hardiness.”
With topics ranging from Martinez-Aguillar’s first tour, to immigration experiences of a chief petty officer, to making dual military marriage work, to enlisted Sailor-turned-commanding officer during COVID, the podcast offers a wide-ranging slice of Navy wisdom and perspective.
“I’ve learned so much and met the most amazing people,” noted Martinez-Aguillar, describing his first tour in the pilot episode of Stepping Off the Brow.
The chaplains hope the podcast will serve a similar purpose for all who can tune in. To check out the latest episode of Stepping Off the Brow, visit the Naval Support Activity South Potomac Chapel YouTube channel or search your favorite podcast provider.
Access this podcast at https://anchor.fm/steppingoffthebrow.
The following podcast platforms are supported: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts, and RadioPublic.
If you would like to view the video platform, please go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBQ25HrT2gstG6Q4qBZvwxw.