Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) recently announced the 2016 SURFPAC Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year (SOY) during a banquet at the Admiral Kidd Catering and Conference Center in San Diego.
During the banquet, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Brent Schermerhorn was named as the Sea Sailor of the Year and Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Jason Robinson was declared the Shore Sailor of the Year. Schermerhorn serves aboard USS Preble (DDG 88) while Robinson is assigned to Assault Craft Unit Five.
“These amazing Sailors are the best at what they do, and were hand-selected by their commands,” said Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Force. “All the Sailor of the Year nominees represent the best of our nation both at home and abroad. Now they are in a position to be role models, to set an example, and to reach back and bring junior sailors up to the next level, and to make them Sailor of the Year material one day, too.”
The annual competition began with a field of more than 100 SOYs from sea and shore commands around the Pacific, with four selected from sea commands and four selected from shore commands to participate in the SOY week. During the week leading up to the banquet, all eight contestants and their spouses participated in a variety of local events and activities, interacting and learning from senior leadership and each other.
Their visits included trips to the USS Midway Museum and the San Diego Zoo.
The winners will now compete in Hawaii with other nominees to be named the U.S. Pacific Fleet Shore and Sea SOY. The top Sea Sailor will be eligible for meritorious promotion to chief petty officer and the Shore SOY will move on to compete in Washington, D.C., for possible designation as the 2016 Chief of Naval Operations Shore SOY.
The other finalists for the Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year were Personnel Specialist 1st Class Jeff B. Salguero, Naval Surface Force headquarters; Master-at-Arms 1st Class Anthony S. Puleo, III, Afloat Training Group Middle Pacific; Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Don William Aukshun, Mine Counter Measures Squadron Three; Electronics Technician 1st Class Fidencio Castellanos, Littoral Combat Ship Crew 111; Logistics Specialist 1st Class Kristie L. Pierre, USS Dewey (DDG 105); and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Jery A. Vasquez, USS Sentry (MCM 3).
Some spirits simply can’t be broken. No matter the task at hand, and without regard for the impact on their own health and well-being, some people just get the job done. United States service members in receipt of the nation’s highest recognition of valor, the Medal of Honor, epitomize that unyielding drive.
With never-ending gratitude for their selfless actions, the U.S. Navy has honored many Medal of Honor recipients by making them namesakes for warships in the fleet. In the future, Surface Forces will operate a total of 28 warships with names memorializing moments of heroic sacrifice. Today we recognize three more of the upcoming additions: the future USS Michael Monsoor, the future USS Ralph Johnson, and the future USS Harvey C. Barnum Jr.
The future USS Michael Monsoor (DDG 1001) honors U.S. Navy Master-At-Arms Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor. Posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for diving on top of a grenade, Monsoor saved the lives of two of his teammates during a battle with insurgents in Ar Ramadi, Iraq on Sept. 29, 2006. DDG 1001 is scheduled for commissioning into active service in calendar year 2017.
The future USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) honors of U.S. Marine Corps Private 1st Class Ralph H. Johnson. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic actions during the Vietnam conflict. While under heavy attack from North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces on March 5, 1968, a grenade landed in the fighting position Johnson and two other Marines were defending. He immediately shouted a warning and hurled himself onto the grenade. Absorbing the blast, Johnson was instantly killed by the explosion.
The future Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) honors U.S. Marine 1st Lieutenant Harvey C. Barnum, Jr. On Dec. 18, 1965, in Vietnam, Barnum aided his mortally wounded Rifle Company Commander, took the radio from the deceased radio operator and, with the unit separated from the rest of the battalion, assumed command. He reorganized the men to replace the loss of personnel and led an attack on key enemy positions. Barnum repeatedly stood-up during
open gunfire to point out targets and maneuvered through enemy fire to control the attack, which ultimately led to the seizure of the battalion’s objective.
As times goes on, these U.S. Navy ships, named for our nation’s heroes, will come to life and travel the globe to help ensure peace and stability; their Sailors will collectively embody the spirit and drive to accomplish the tasks at hand–no matter the cost. Just like their ship’s namesakes.
This series returns in a few weeks as the Surface Navy recognizes the remainder of the Fleet’s Medal of Honor namesakes. Until then please visit our blog weekly to enjoy other great topics surrounding our U.S. Navy’s Surface Forces.
There are moments in the careers of U.S. Navy Sailors when they become part of something so moving, so sacred, that it imprints upon them forever. Helping say goodbye and putting to rest a shipmate, or their family members, during a burial ceremony is the epitome of such solemn moments; hearts weigh heavy with pride, sorrow, love and respect, whether they had a personal connection to deceased or not.
While many sea service members are buried in traditional funerals ashore, some families choose to show their respects through an at sea disposition, or burial, where the deceased’s intact body or cremated remains are committed to the ocean from the deck of a Navy vessel.
According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, burials at sea date back to ancient times and have been practiced for as long as people have set sail upon the seas. In these early times, the deceased was sewn into a weighted shroud, like heavy sailcloth, and in a very old custom, the last stitch was put through their nose. Once wrapped, and usually accompanied by an appropriate religious ceremony, the body was slid over the side of the vessel.
Today, eligibility for burial at sea is afforded to active duty service members, honorably discharged retirees, veterans, U.S. civilian marine personnel of the Military Sealift Command, and dependent family members of active duty, retirees, and veterans.
Although family members are unable to share the closing moments due to the ceremony taking place on operationally deployed ships, burials at sea performed on our Surface Force ships share many of the same elements found in funerals held ashore – ceremony participants usually wear their finest dress uniforms, fire three volleys, read eulogies and play taps in honor of the deceased. If requested, cremated remains are scattered into the sea. Otherwise, the casket or urn is gently slid overboard. Flowers or wreathes may also be tossed into the sea during the observance.
Shortly following the ceremony, the commanding officer of the ship will mail the next of kin a letter detailing the date and time of the ceremony, accompanied by any photographs or video of the committal, a commemorative flag (if applicable) and a chart showing the navigational location where the deceased was laid to rest.
John F. Kennedy once said, “All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea — whether it is to sail or to watch it — we are going back from whence we came.”
It’s no wonder that the pull of the sea remains eternal and some desire it as their final resting place.
For the Sailors participating in this solemn tradition, laying shipmates (or their loved ones) to rest in the great blue sea is one of the highest acts they can provide as a final offering of honor for the deceased.
By: Cmdr. Emily Bassett, commanding officer, Littoral Combat Ship Crew 214, Pre-Commissioning Unit Manchester (LCS 14)
The commissioning ceremony was originally about ball caps. Before the rehearsal, I told my crew, “If you have any family or friends who will be with us today—in person, or in spirit, and you want me to mention them by name, let me know.” Then, one Sailor approached me, “Ma’am, my mom couldn’t be here today. Could you stream it on Facebook Live?” So, I handed my cell phone to a friend seated in the bleachers at our ceremony on the grass next to the Vietnam Memorial at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, and we went live. Our attendance of 50 turned into close to 500.
The littoral combat ship program has been going through major transitions, one of which is assigning a crew to only one ship, and adopting a blue-gold rotation. Crew 214 is the pre-commissioning crew for Manchester, and our identity is all about Manchester, New Hampshire. We’ve visited the city and met the city’s mayor. Our ship sponsor, New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen, sent a personal note for our ceremony’s program. As a crew, we designed the ship’s crest, the brow banner and the ball caps.
Now, we wanted to make a special moment out of sun-downing the 8-point standard Navy Working Uniform (NWU) cover, and replacing it with our “USS Manchester” ball caps. I would read my orders and don my command-at-sea pin.
Turns out, it wasn’t just about ball caps. It was about character, competence and connections. Capt. Jay Hennessey, commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare Center, was our guest speaker. To many of us, SEALs are the epitome of character and competence. But beyond that, he told us about the importance of connection — of teammates, crewmates.
He said, “Teammate. It’s synonymous with crew. It’s synonymous with shipmate. Teammate, for me, in Naval Special Warfare, is the highest accolade I could pay someone. Because when I call someone a teammate, I mean they have three things. They are a person that is trustworthy, that is competent, and a person with whom I want to serve. You can’t do two of the three. You can’t be trustworthy and competent, but someone we don’t like. You’ve got to have to have all three.”
Then, he broke with his normal protocol of handing out a personalized command coin after a job well done, after a Sailor has demonstrated excellence as a teammate. Instead, he handed out two coins, to two crewmembers, for “excellence in advance,” investing in these two Sailors, that they would spread their competence, their trustworthiness, and their desire to be wanted as a teammate by the rest of the crew.
As command senior chief and I handed out Manchester ball caps, each Sailor exchanged a ball cap for a word: a character trait they wanted to develop while part of our crew. I was deeply moved by each Sailor’s word. I heard dependability, patience, trustworthiness, diversity, leadership, empathy, flexibility, perseverance, fairness, loyalty, humility. Remarkably, there was no trait I heard twice. The executive officer and I exchanged traits. He called “Uncover. Two,” and “Cover. Two,” and in unison, we donned the cover of our new ship.
After that simple ritual, I felt a deep connection with my crew. Then, while I spoke, that connection spread to our gathered guests. A few Sailors broke ranks and handed out small tokens to each guest. They were candles, in a clear glass with a sticker of the Manchester crest on one side and one sticker of the crew logo on the other. Light these candles, I said, and remember that you are with us in spirit in the future as you are with us physically today.
Then I turned to my scribbled notes and named the honored guests: parents, siblings, in-laws, grandparents, a mother watching us on Facebook Live, and even one Sailor’s late grandfather whom he wanted remembered. I realized how deeply connected we all are. It wasn’t just about the ball caps.
For a class of ships that got their start in the Navy combating swift, small torpedo boats that could dash in close to the larger ships, loose their torpedoes and dash away, guided missile destroyers have matured and become the long-term endurance runners of the fleet by logging more than a century’s worth of work in support of naval dominance.
Their adaptability and usefulness has led to them becoming the most abundant type of vessel in the U.S. Navy Surface Force — capable of providing both multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, they serve as the backbone of the fleet.
Modern destroyers can effectively tackle a variety of Anti-Air Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, and Anti-Surface Warfare missions. Their versatility allows them to operate independently or as part of larger carrier strike groups, surface action groups, amphibious ready groups, or underway replenishment groups.
The two current variants of destroyers are the Arleigh Burke and Zumwalt classes.
The first Arleigh Burke class ship (DDG 51) was brought into the fleet with a bang, as it shares the country’s birthday. It was commissioned on July 4, 1991.
This class is still in production today though the original design has been upgraded through the years in order to keep pace with capabilities and technology. One of the most prevalent updates is the addition of dual hangars on DDG 79 and later to accommodate embarked helo support. DDG 51-78 only had external landing capability.
Newer ships also receive incorporated advanced sensors, weapons, and improved support systems during construction, while older ships in service undergo a comprehensive mid-life upgrade to ensure all Arleigh Burke class ships maintain mission effectiveness and remain an integral part of the Navy’s Sea Power 21 Plan.
With all-steel construction, numerous damage control features, powered and gas turbine propulsion engines capable of achieving 30+ knot speeds in the open seas — they truly are a mobile, lethal, flexible instrument of national power.
The capability of U.S. Navy destroyers will continue to admirably represent the Surface Force on behalf of American interests at home and abroad for generations to come.
Stay tuned as we take a deeper look at the next generation USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) in the coming weeks.
Whether your family is big or small, if you’ve ever prepared a Thanksgiving meal you know how much work goes into planning the meal, finding and buying all the ingredients, and finally getting everything cooked so that “miraculously” a feast can be enjoyed by all. An incredible amount of effort to deliver your family a wonderful meal — the thought alone is exhausting!
Now, imagine your family consisted of several hundred or a few thousand family members. If you can wrap your mind around that, you can start to get an idea of the mass effort it takes to give U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines a fitting feast on the celebratory day.
“Our Navy culinarians take great pride in providing the annual Thanksgiving meal and seeing the smiles on Sailors and Marines,” said Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Navy Food Service Director Cmdr. Keith Capper. “We know hard being away from family and friends for our deployed shipmates, and that’s why our culinarians go the extra mile in providing a quality meal to improve morale throughout the fleet on this special occasion.”
NAVSUP’s mission is to provide supplies, services, and quality-of- life support to the Navy and joint warfighter. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.
Last year, for 2015, NAVSUP ordered an astonishing amount of food for commands around the world to feed Sailors and Marines a hearty meal and the service culinarians did their best with the menus to try to mimic the comforts of a homemade Thanksgiving dinner. But, no matter how good the food, what can’t be matched is the presence of family sharing the meal.
This year as you and your loved ones gather around the dinner table, we respectfully request you take a moment to give thanks for all the servicemembers standing the watch around the globe, spending the holidays away from their families, so their fellow Americans can enjoy them with their family in peace.
From all of us at Naval Surface Force, Happy Thanksgiving!