Elizabeth Carlin shot a musket and fired a cannon aboard the USS Constitution in late August. She also learned how to fight off pirates trying to storm the U.S. Navy’s oldest commissioned ship.

None of what Carlin did during the Navy’s Heritage Week in Boston pertained to her day job as the clinical placement coordinator for the UNC Greensboro’s School of Nursing. However, she has another position outside of UNCG that keeps her busy at night and away at least one weekend a month.

Carlin was officially promoted to chief petty officer in the Navy Reserve during a pinning ceremony in Greensboro on Sept. 14. She earned the rank after being selected by a review board and enduring a physically and mentally demanding initiation process nicknamed “The Season” that lasted more than two months.

Carlin called the promotion to chief petty officer “the biggest, most significant milestone in a career.”

“When you’re a chief, it’s a different uniform and sailors know when they see that uniform you’re the authority,” Carlin said. “So in a way all sailors everywhere are your sailors, not just those who report to you directly. I could be walking down a pier in Norfolk on a two-week trip, and people could come to me with a problem or a question.”

In her role in the School of Nursing, Carlin works with regional hospitals and healthcare agencies to find clinical sites where nursing students can get hands-on training. Some of the students are military veterans in the School of Nursing’s Veterans Access Program and active duty military personnel stationed at Fort Bragg.

As a chief petty officer, Carlin serves as a go-between for Navy Reserve officers and junior enlisted sailors. She works to ensure her sailors have everything from approval from their civilian jobs prior to being deployed to a plan for how their children will be taken care of while they’re away.

Carlin’s Greensboro-based unit has the primary mission of assisting the USS Frank Cable, a ship’s tender homeported in Guam that supports Navy submarines.

“If you boil it down, the job is taking care of your sailors, taking care of your people,” said Carlin, who’s a UNCG alumna. “And that’s a full-time job in the Reserve because people need support not just in their Navy careers and personal lives, but in their civilian jobs as well.”

As it turned out, Carlin needed to miss two weeks of work to complete “The Season” and represent North Carolina as one of the Chief selectees at Heritage Week. It came at an awful time for her, though.

Carlin’s most important work meeting of the year had been scheduled for when she was away. She had to quickly prepare a UNCG colleague to attend the meeting in her place.

“The support that I got from the School of Nursing was just very humbling, very validating to know that people would pull together to support me in this thing that’s so important to me,” Carlin said.

Carlin was 19 years old and enrolled in a community college when she decided to skip class and meet with a Navy recruiter. Both her father and her uncle had served in the Navy, so it just made sense for her to enlist in the Navy as well.

Carlin served six years in the Navy, from 2004-2010, and did three deployments onboard the USS Nimitz, an aircraft carrier. After being honorably discharged, she joined the Navy Reserve and attended UNCG for free thanks to her military service. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in English.

“UNCG is just an awesome place for vets, so it always felt like home to me and that’s why I wanted to come work here afterward.” — Elizabeth Carlin

Story by Alex Abrams/School of Nursing

Photographs provided to the School of Nursing