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“Just smiling the whole way”: Navy mom, daughter get rare chance to serve on same ship

Master Chief Tanya McCray and daughter Seaman Racquel McCray. (US Navy photo/Released)
August 02, 2021

Over nearly 30 years in the Navy, Master Chief Tanya McCray had to be apart from her two daughters and sailor husband, Sheridan, plenty of times — but this month, she’s had a chance to do her job at sea alongside her oldest daughter.

Racquel McCray, who just joined the Navy and picked the same specialty her mother did, has been temporarily assigned to her ship for some at-sea training.

Tanya McCray is the leading chief petty officer of USS Gerald R. Ford’s supply department — the group that makes sure there’s food for the ship’s company, that they are paid, that the spare parts are at hand and that the laundries, barbering and recreation facilities needed to help keep the crew healthy and happy are working properly.

She’s proud that her daughter picked the Navy and picked her specialty, after going to college.

“They talked about the Navy but they never said I ought to join,” Racquel McCray, 25, said. But joining the Navy was something she wanted to do since she was 18.

She first thought of following her father’s path as an information systems technician, but the logistics specialty rating that her mother holds was instead proposed when she signed up

“I knew I wanted to do something my parents had,” she said.

And more recently, she wanted to experience something else her mother had — the first full ship shock trials of an aircraft carrier in 35 years. Those involve a series of large explosions close to a warship, to make sure it is as strong and stable as designed. The Ford completed the second in its series on July 16.

“I definitely could feel it,” Racquel said.

She’s assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush, which is at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for maintenance. When in the yard, ship’s leaders regularly dispatch sailors, especially younger ones, to other warships for the training and experience only available at sea.

At sea, it’s Tanya McCray’s job to see all of the Ford’s logistics specialists are doing their jobs properly, and while her aim is to treat all her sailors the same, she says it is hard for a mother to expect even more.

And, on the flip side, over the course of her career, Tanya says she often takes on the task of being a “Sea Mama,” offering support and mentoring to sailors.

Being a Navy parent is tough — those months at sea away from family aren’t easy, she said. When both parents serve, it can be even more challenging, even though the Navy makes a point of ensuring one parent is home when the other is at sea.

From a daughter’s point of view, there’s this plus: mom and dad are focused on spending lots of high quality time with their children when back from a deployment, Racquel said.

And now, there’s this rare mother-daughter experience, she said:

“It’s pretty cool walking with her. Everyone says, ‘Good morning master chief’, and she greets them and I’m just smiling the whole way. I feel like a proud daughter.”

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© 2021 The Virginian-Pilot

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