Army ROTC Cadet Shares Her Navy Experience

Cadet Sarah Duncan, USA, and Dr. John Sherwood in front of PCF-1, a Swift boat used for training Vietnam bound crews. PCF-1 now serves as a memorial display at the Washington Navy Yard. Credit: MC2 Destiny Cheek, USN

By U.S. Army Cadet Sarah Duncan

As a senior at the University of Maryland, I am finishing my last semester of college. I attend lectures and discussions, do my homework, and wake up at 6:00 a.m. for physical training three times a week. Well, I suppose that last activity might not be a typical college thing to do. I do it because I am in my final weeks as a cadet with the university’s Army ROTC program. So back in January when I got an offer to be an intern at the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), you might understand my skepticism. The Army and the Navy are longtime rivals and the idea of working in “enemy” territory gave me reason to pause. I am very happy that I did not pause for long, because the last four months I spent as an intern at NHHC have been priceless.

At NHHC, I worked in the Histories and Archives Division for Dr. John Sherwood, a long-serving historian at the command with numerous publications to his credit. My main project involved abstracting oral histories he conducted for his recent book War in the Shallows: U.S. Navy Coastal and Riverine Warfare in Vietnam 1965-1968. This work exposed me to the naval side of American wartime operations, and gave me a much broader sense of military history and strategy.

A Patrol Boat River (PBR) near Cat Lo, Vietnam, 13 April 1966. Credit: U.S. Navy (K31134, CU)

The internship allowed me to step outside of my Army bubble and broaden my horizons. Dr. Sherwood taught me a lot about the Navy, both as a modern organization and as a historical one. I was able to work alongside a group of historians whose silent dedication to their individual projects exemplified discipline and passion for the job that they were doing: preserving naval history so that people anywhere can look back and learn about it. This internship forced me to think critically, to listen carefully, and to write effectively, which are skills that extend beyond the Army or the Navy, and will help me in my personal and professional life long after I leave the NHHC.

NHHC offers internships to students who wish to have professional work experience in areas related to their educational programs and career goals. In addition to undertaking historical research, writing and editing, NHHC operates the Navy Department Library, The National Museum of the United States Navy, and maintains collections of naval archives, photographs, artifacts, and art. Internships are available in all of these areas. The Command is located in the Washington Navy Yard, 805 Kidder Breese Street SE, Washington, D.C. Visit our internships webpage for more information.