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NEWS | Oct. 26, 2021

SECNAV Visits USS Ronald Reagan, Announces Ship’s Sailors of the Year

By Seaman Apprentice Dallas Snider

YOKOSUKA, Japan -- Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro visited the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) to speak with Sailors during an all hands call at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Oct. 26.

Del Toro was welcomed aboard by Capt. Fred Goldhammer, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, who explained the significance of Del Toro’s visit following the ship’s historic deployment.

“The crew of Ronald Reagan was honored to welcome Secretary Del Toro on board the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier,” said Goldhammer. “His visit was yet another highlight in a historic year for ‘Warship 76,’ and reaffirmed our continuing efforts to enhance warfighting readiness, reinforce a culture of teamwork, and sustain unparalleled presence and versatility to support our partners and allies around the globe.”

During his speech, Del Toro repeatedly expressed his appreciation to the whole crew of Ronald Reagan.

“I care about each and every one of you very deeply,” Del Toro said. “The reason that I came back from 17 years in the private sector was to be your advocate in the Pentagon – to fight for the things that matter to you.”

Del Toro discussed his plan for the future of the Navy and Marine Corps during his visit. A big part of that, he said, is the role forward-deployed naval forces (FDNF) play. As a former naval officer and executive officer of an FDNF ship, Del Toro expressed the importance of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

“You know we always have to put our resources where the threat is the greatest and folks like you are at the pointy end of the spear. I don’t lose sight of that at all,” Del Toro said. “I sit in meetings in the Pentagon with the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I speak my mind on your behalf.”

Following his initial address to the crew, Del Toro announced the ship’s 2021 Sailors of the Year: Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Benjamin Meisner, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Rosben Constant, Yeoman 3rd Class Aylin Vasquez, and Retail Services Specialist Seaman Helaina Olvera.

“It’s my understanding that it is Sailor of the Year time, and I know it is a long process, but I would like to use my executive privilege to announce who the Sailors of the Year are,” Del Toro said.

The announcement came as a surprise for the recipients, but it was a welcome one according to Vasquez.

“It was very nerve-racking, obviously because I didn’t know,” said Vasquez. “So just being flooded with so much emotion at one moment I almost started crying on stage.”

Vasquez said she did not expect to earn Junior Sailor of the Year because she was only focused on doing her job well.

“I didn’t [do my job] for any recognition,” Vasquez said. “I would say it was a lot of hard work, but it didn’t feel like it. I wanted to join all the programs I am in and I wanted to help the people I did.”

Meisner felt similarly when Del Toro announced him as Senior Sailor of the Year.

“I was just trying to be well-rounded, trying to make my chief’s job easier, and my junior Sailors’ lives easier,” Meisner said. “[This] was one of my most humbling experiences in the Navy to date. Getting my name announced in general is huge, and the fact that I got it announced by the Secretary of the Navy – what more could I ask for?”

Following the visit, Goldhammer reemphasized the privilege to host Del Toro on the ship.

“Secretary Del Toro’s amazing journey as a first generation American is a source of inspiration for all Sailors that highlights the limitless opportunities and richness of diversity that our great nation and her Navy have to offer,” said Goldhammer.

Ronald Reagan, the flagship of Carrier Strike Group 5, provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the United States, and supports alliances, partnerships and collective maritime interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

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