Three Generations of Sailors Serve Aboard Lincoln

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Three generations of Sailors born between the late 1950s through the mid-1990s are serving aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier undergoes its refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) in Newport News. 

As each Sailor is different so too are the generations they represent with the majority of the nearly 2,500 Sailors assigned to the carrier are known as Millenial or Generation Y and brings with them their own style of problem solving and experience. The majority of the crew, slightly more than 80 percent, is representative of this generation of those born prior to the launch of the personal computer through the birth of the World Wide Web. 

Lt. Cmdr. Tony Beaster, Lincoln's training officer, explains how these three separate generations of Sailors respond to training, motivation and education. 

Prior to reporting to Lincoln, Beaster studied manpower and analysis, earning a master's degree from Capella University in 2010. While at Capella, he studied how people learn, interact and specifically how motivation affects different groups of people.

"What motivates a baby boomer is different then what motivates a millenial," said Beaster. "The goals are different for each group."

Less than one percent of the crew is defined as a Baby Boomer, born between 1946 through 1964. Slightly more Sailors, about 19 percent, fit into the Generation X mold. This group, like Beaster, is defined as those individuals born between 1965 and 1981. Generation X Sailors are typically team orientated, believe in a work and family-life balance, and have strong loyalty to their relationships.

Beaster added that while each generation responds differently to motivation, they also view work differently.

"For Baby Boomers working is simply a means to an end and for a Millenial if they didn't need to work, they wouldn't," said Beaster.

According to Beaster, each generation is motivated in a myriad of ways. Baby Boomers respond positively to pay raises and new titles when being awarded for their work acumen, said Beaster, whereas Generation X Sailors respond positively if they are given time off or time away from the job. Millenials, Beaster added, are best motivated if they receive immediate recognition for a job well done. 

Beaster takes into consideration the divergent generations aboard the Lincoln especially since the majority of Sailors who have grown up with the Internet and added that this type of learning style also effects how they live and engage. 

"Learning how to interact and communicate with these groups will help us to determine the best way to train each group and pass information and solicit feedback," said Beaster. 

Personnel Specialist Seaman Apprentice Catherine Kapic, assigned to the Administrative Department aboard USS Abraham Lincoln was born in 1994 and reflects on her communication style with her fellow Sailors.

"Texting to me is the easiest and emails are more like letters and require more thought before sending," said Kapic. 

Beaster said that Millenials respond more positively when supervisors allow them to tackle their to-do lists and admonish micromanagement work styles.

"You can motivate the Millenials by giving them the list of everything we need them to do, and let them figure out what is important," said Beaster. "They like being given the problem. Giving them a due date is an absolute need, but Millenials don't always react well to last-minute changes."

Beaster added that both Baby Boomers and Generation X Sailors are more prone to roll with the punches and adapt more quickly to changed plans and schedules, but Millenials need more structure. 

Education, according to Beaster, is a common denominator for Baby Boomers and Millenials. 

"Baby boomers are more interested in gaining a skill set than a four or six-year degree and many Millenials are reverting back to the Baby Boomer mentality," said Beaster."Another motivating factor is the region a Sailor was raised and how they were raised." 

Lincoln is truly a representation of the United States. Sailors from every state are assigned to the Lincoln. California remains in the lead with more than 300 Sailors calling that state home. Rhode Island and Vermont are at a tie with three Sailors each hailing from those states. 

Motivation and work styles are different across each generation. So too are the communication styles. 

Beaster said that whether Sailors are from Washington, Texas or New York, one thing connects all three generations -- their need for communicating. Beaster added that understanding how they best like to communicate is the key to bridging the communication gap. 

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