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NEWS | July 3, 2024

New 'helper-trainee' debuts at Employee Appreciation Day

By Max Maxfield, PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

Ollie Olafsen, a North American river otter, made his public debut as Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility’s official mascot during PSNS & IMF Employee Appreciation Day at a Seattle Mariners game June 30, 2024, in Seattle.

“Ollie the Otter,” as he prefers to be called, is officially a Wage Grade-0.7 helper-trainee at PSNS & IMF, with his additional duties including acting as an ambassador for the command during internal and public events such as parades, safety walks and awards ceremonies.

Ollie rode the Bremerton-Seattle ferry with PSNS & IMF employees headed to the game, where M/V Walla Walla Captain Scott Schrader and crew invited him to serve as a ceremonial ferry “captain” for the trip.

After Capt. JD Crinklaw, PSNS & IMF commander, threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Mariners game, Ollie joined the captain and the Mariner Moose for a photo opportunity on the field.

Feedback from the 2023 PSNS & IMF Family Day indicated folks loved the idea of an otter mascot for the command. Members of the PSNS & IMF Public Affairs Office spearheaded the initiative to recruit the perfect otter. They found a potential otter mascot after seeing him on social media, and invited him to a PSNS & IMF hiring fair at the Kitsap Conference Center in downtown Bremerton.

“My family has lived in the Puget Sound area for generations,” Ollie said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve rounded that last bend through Rich Passage to see the Hammerhead Crane and Building 460 with the giant words ‘Building on a Proud Tradition.’ I’ve always wanted to work here. When the command reached out to me on social media and asked if I’d like a job with excellent benefits, paid training and an opportunity to build a real career, I dove headfirst toward the opportunity. They told me to bring my résumé to the next hiring fair, and here I am.”

Living in the same area his entire life helped speed up Ollie’s security clearance process. During his interview Ollie did admit to some bad behavior back when he was only a six-month old kit.

“I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get a security clearance because I trespassed into the shipyard once,” Ollie said. “One sunny Sunday afternoon one of my otter raft buddies dared me to swim under the floating barrier into PSNS & IMF territory and tour one of the dry docks; and I did. A few seagull ‘frienemies’ egged me on the entire time and made fun of me when I got tired climbing ALL those stairs to get back to sea level. I self-reported the whole story to the investigator and still managed to get a security clearance. I guess admitting to doing dumb stuff is better than investigators finding it out all on their own.”

Even though Ollie’s eventual goal is to join the PSNS & IMF Divers, he decided to start as a helper-trainee to get his foot in the door. He will work on getting all of his needed diver certifications on his own time.

“I’m a natural diver,” Ollie said. “Come on, I can hold my breath for more than five minutes and I can dive about 175 feet deep. With practice I should eventually be able to hold my breath for eight minutes and dive 250 feet underwater. Imagine what I could accomplish with high-quality Navy gear and proper training.”

For now, he is splitting his time between Shop 11, Shipfitters, and Shop 56, Pipefitters.

“You would not believe how many times a day one of those shops needs a small individual to work inside a tight space, or a small tank,” Ollie said. “I’m used to searching for food in cold, dark and tight spaces … underwater. The workspaces that six-foot humans can’t fit into are quite roomy for me. Even though they request me for those jobs primarily because of my size, I still learn something new on every job. The craftsmanship and design of U.S. Navy ships is just amazing to be around.”

OIlie understands that his cuddly appearance draws people to him. While he looks forward to serving as a command ambassador/mascot during specific events, his day-to-day focus is the same as any other helper-trainee.

“I worked a summer job at a carnival where I did close up magic, card tricks, juggling and stuff like that,” he said. “I enjoyed my time there entertaining folks and making them happy. However, I am here to maintain, repair and modernize U.S. Navy warships. I want to learn my craft and potentially participate in the PSNS & IMF Apprentice Program. If I complete the apprentice program, I will be the first otter in my family to earn a college degree.”

Also, Ollie the Otter has some personal boundaries he’d like PSNS & IMF personnel to know about.

“Please, please, please, don’t try to pet me. Everyone always wants to pet me. Also, I don’t need a treat every time you see me and I don’t do tricks during duty hours. I’m just here to get the job done and learn as much as I can every day. Now, if you see me on the ferry or at a parade, I’ll accept a treat. Urchins and abalone are always welcome,” he said with a wink and a smile.