SIMI VALLEY, CA, UNITED STATES –
Five Sailors currently assigned to the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) visited California to attend the Reagan National Defense Forum (RNDF) and learn more about the ship’s namesake, President Ronald Reagan, Dec. 2-3.
Sailors were selected to attend the RNDF for the first time following their selection as Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Sailors of the Year for their respective paygrade.
Another Ronald Reagan Sailor was invited to sing the national anthem prior to the keynote address given by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III.
Prior to attending the RNDF, Sailors also toured the grounds of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum, the Reagan Ranch Center, and Rancho Del Cielo, President Reagan’s personal vacation property.
Sailors attended panels including Members of Congress, high-level Department of Defense (DoD) civilians and senior military leadership, including Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Adm. John C. Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
For Master-at-Arms 1st Class Adonis Lowery, Reagan’s FY-22 Senior Sailor of the Year from Alexandria, Virginia, hearing from key decision makers was an opportunity he was glad to take part in.
“My favorite panel talked about retention of servicemembers after their first re-enlistment,” said Lowery. “Hearing what a variety of leaders discuss the importance of topics like taking care of our families, PCS issues and things that effect servicemembers on a daily basis, especially the more junior Sailors who are just figuring out how to be in the military.”
Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) Lavon Turner, from Meridian, Mississippi, sang the national anthem and felt extreme pride being able to attend the event and sing in front of high-ranking DoD leadership.
“It was just a great experience to sing at this event for people at that level,” said Turner. “This opportunity was a blessing and is a great story I can tell my kids as they get older.”
Information Systems Technician Seaman Tiana Johnson, Reagan’s FY-22 Bluejacket of the Year from Arlington, Texas, felt the best part of the trip was attending Rancho del Cielo.
“For me, I’ve never been on a ranch before,” said Johnson. “Seeing everything that made up the ranch was a new experience and it was pretty cool to see President Reagan’s lifestyle away from the White House.”
Rachel Hoff, Policy Director for the Reagan Institute’s Washington, D.C. office, explained the importance of having the Sailors attend the forum and be a key link for the forum’s audience.
“What the USS Ronald Reagan and the Sailors onboard are doing is keeping President Reagan’s legacy and his principle of ‘Peace Through Strength’ alive in today’s world,” said Hoff. “What the Sailors onboard [Ronald Reagan] and those who have joined us here today are doing is implementing many of the policy conversations that are being talked about here and we love having them here to make the connection for all the other defense forum attendees.”
Hoff added that the hope is for Reagan Sailors to attend future RNDFs.
“The Ronald Reagan Sailors are part of the living legacy of President Reagan,” said Hoff. “Every forum is anchored through ‘Peace Through Strength,’ which is also the ship’s motto. That saying is also so relevant in today’s world and we hope to get more Sailors here in years to come to continue that relationship.”
On the ship, Ronald Reagan’s legacy lives on through the design of various shipboard spaces, released publications and communication products, Ronald Reagan statues, as well as historical artifacts on display.
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.