A Lot of Miles on Those Shoes
More than 1,000 feet in the air above the water of the Adriatic Sea in an MH-60S Nighthawk helicopter, Lt. Cmdr. Miles Alvarez reflected on more than 25 years of service in the U.S. Navy alongside Rear Adm. Dennis Velez, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10, George H.W. Bush CSG (GHWBCSG). It was the culmination of 26 years of dedicated service to the country for Alvarez and his family, and one that featured a pair of shoes whose soles are long worn with service.
As a young man and native Los Angelino, Alvarez worked tirelessly at dead-end jobs to pay his way through community college. He struggled to make ends meet and save for the future simultaneously, and eventually the demanding pace took a hit on school work. Staring down college costs and a stagnate income that barely left him afloat, the search began for something that would get him out of Los Angeles and onto more stable ground. He looked to examples in his life for guidance, and he didn’t have to look far.
As a child, Alvarez lived with his grandfather, a Korean War-veteran and U.S. Army paratrooper who was a life-long example of focus and discipline for the fledgling student.
“He was in his sixties when I lived with him, and he was still doing a regular workout routine before bed of push-ups, sit ups, squats, and dumbbells,” said Alvarez. “He walked to and from breakfast almost every morning. He shined his shoes, always ironed his clothes, shaved and made his bed daily, and always kept his room very orderly. He attributed his discipline to the Army and I liked that, even as a kid.”
From that early, lived experience with his grandfather, Alvarez saw that military service offered a secure income, abundant opportunities for personal and professional growth, and a purpose that came from serving something greater than self. His mind was made up. He enlisted in the Navy – a similar but slightly different path than his grandfather.
Alvarez joined the Navy in November 1996 as an E-1, and became a Cryptologic Technician (Collection). It wasn’t long until he learned about the opportunities presented through earning a commission, and so he set his sights on achieving that goal.
“Earning a commission had always been a goal of mine ever since I first learned that it was an option,” said Alvarez. “The opportunities for positions, the responsibility inherent with those positions, and where I saw myself being able to have the most influence was through a commission, which is why I continued to apply. I was confident I could do the job that the junior officers on the watch floor, in SSES [Ship’s Signal Exploitation Space], or around the command were doing.”
Alvarez’ path to a commission was not an overnight success story. While some take a single shot at a promotion or a commission before moving on, Alvarez was unwilling to let setbacks deter him from his pursuit of a commission.
He first applied to the Enlisted Commissioning Program (now the Seaman-to-Admiral Program) as a second class petty officer and was unsuccessful. As a first class petty officer he applied for Officer Candidate School (OCS) after completing a bachelor’s degree. He was rejected again. After multiple applications for a commission, then-Chief Alvarez applied for a commission through the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program. It was only then – after more than a decade of sustained superior performance while facing setbacks head on – that his steadfastness paid off. On Nov. 1, 2008, Alvarez earned his commission as an LDO.
Since then, Alvarez served in myriad roles. He was a SSES division officer aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the operations officer at Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Whidbey Island, Wash., the Cryptologic Warfare LDO/Chief Warrant Officer Detailer at Navy Personnel Command, and the executive officer of the Fleet Survey Team, Stennis Space Center. Today, he serves as the Integrated Fires Officer for CSG-10, GHWBCSG aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
The journey from being a student struggling to balance academic expectations and financial needs, to a U.S. Navy seaman recruit, to Chief Petty Officer, to U.S. Navy commander is a testament to Alvarez’s commitment to service. Of course, it was not lost on anyone at the command that more than 1,000 feet above the Adriatic when Alvarez repeated his oath of office on his promotion to commander that he was wearing the same, black polished shoes issued to him at Recruit Training Command Great Lakes 26 years earlier.
Alvarez’ grandfather would most certainly be proud.
The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) is the flagship of CSG-10 and the George H.W. Bush CSG. CSG-10 is comprised of George H.W. Bush, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26, the Information Warfare Commander, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55).
The ships of DESRON 26 within CSG-10 are USS Nitze (DDG 94), USS Farragut (DDG 99), USS Truxtun (DDG 103), and USS Delbert D. Black (DDG 119).
The squadrons of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 embarked aboard George H.W. Bush are the “Sidewinders” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86, the “Jolly Rogers” (VFA) 103, “Nighthawks” of VFA-136, the “Pukin Dogs” of VFA-143, the “Bluetails” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, the “Patriots” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 140, the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5, and the “Grandmasters” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46.
Information vetted by the Veteran X Team.