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Chief Petty Officer Gretchen Jackson prepares boxes for food at Second Harvest Hearland.

An Arden Hills, Minnesota, native volunteered in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, community to help those in need during last month's Minneapolis Navy Week.  

Chief Petty Officer Gretchen Jackson is a 2001 graduate of Moundsview High School and 2016 Excelsior College graduate. Today, Jackson serves aboard USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier homeported in Norfolk, Virginia, as a Navy aviation ordnanceman. 

"I manage 25 sailors in my shop that are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of all the bomb racks, missile launchers and aircraft guns on the ship," said Jackson.

Jackson joined the Navy over 20 years ago to be a part of something bigger than herself. 

"My grandfather was a pilot in the Navy during WWII," said Jackson. "I wasn’t sure what service to choose but his influence in my life drove me to naval service opposed to other branches. When 9/11 happened, I was going through boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. I joined for peace, but knew defending my country was something that I was born to do."

Navy Weeks are the service’s signature outreach program, designed to give the citizens of Minneapolis the opportunity to learn about the Navy, its people and its importance to national security and prosperity, and to strengthen the service’s ties to the community. 

Navy Weeks focus a variety of outreach assets, equipment and personnel on a single city for a week-long series of events with key influencers and organizations across the market. During a Navy Week, 75-100 outreach events are occur in participation with corporate, civic, government, education, media, veterans, community service and diversity organizations throughout the city.

Jackson recently volunteered at Second Harvest Heartland, one of the nation’s largest, most efficient and innovative hunger relief organizations. Located in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, Second Harvest Heartland procures food from manufacturers, farmers, hotels, restaurants and food drives, and provides over 100 million meals annually to more than 1,000 food shelves and meal programs serving 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

"I’ve spent 20 years in the Navy supporting my local community in Virginia Beach and I’ve never had the opportunity till now, to come back to Minneapolis to support my original community," said Jackson. "Being able to have the ability to give back to where I originally came from seemed like the right thing to do. Giving back to my community by volunteering is not only rewarding but humbling."

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Jackson, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

"It’s given me the opportunity to not only travel the world and to serve my country, but to mold junior sailors and teach them the right way to be a positive role model for other sailors both professionally and personally," added Jackson.

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