First In The U.S. Navy: All In The Family; Fil Am Assumes Command Of USS Carrier

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (JGL) – There was a change of command within a huge U.S. Navy carrier but the changing of the guard was restricted a little bit within a family.

The Stars and Stripes, a daily newspaper of the American forces, described the takeover of Filipino American Capt. Ronald Ravelo from his brother-in-law, Capt. Karl Thomas, as commander of the USS Abraham Lincoln, on Aug. 7 “as unprecedented for the U.S. Navy.”

At the turnover ceremony at Newport News, Virginia, guest speaker Rear Adm. Troy Shoemaker joked that for Ravelo’s sister, Jennifer, the wife of Thomas, “planning the event must have been interesting.

“With the two principals related by marriage, this is a first for me and probably our Navy, which makes today’s ceremony even more special and allowed the families to plan a twofer, a change of command and a summer family reunion,” Shoemaker said. “I can imagine that the logistics for this ceremony were a bit like planning a wedding reception, except that the proverbial bride and groom are your husband and brother, which begs the question: Who’s the groom and which side of the aisle do you sit on?”

As the first Filipino American to take command of a carrier, Ravelo shook his brother-in-law’s hand and read his orders during the ceremonies in front of about 500 of the roughly 2,500 sailors who will be under his command, as well as family and friends, by the Victory Landing Park in Newport News.

Ravelo said he is proud to represent service members such as his father, Ben Ravelo, who joined the Navy in the Philippines, leaving behind friends and family “to serve a country where he didn’t even know the language.”

FILIPINOS RECRUITED IN THE U.S. NAVY SINCE 1901

Although U.S. President William McKinley allowed the Navy to enlist 500 Filipinos in 1901 as part of the insular forces, these Filipino recruits were limited to steward duties such as serving as cooks and doing menial jobs such as cleaning up in the galley, the wardroom and living quarters of officers.

Ravelo’s assuming command Lincoln is breaking new ground for Filipino Americans in the U.S. Navy.

Thomas, the outgoing commander of Lincoln, will lead the USS Carl Vinson, which is preparing for deployment from San Diego, California later this month.

Thomas took command of Lincoln two years ago as it started the four-year refueling and overhaul process, which has a crew with an average of 22 years old.

Lincoln will set sail October 2016 and deploy in 2017 after an extensive training cycle.

Nony E. Abrajano, chair of Filipino American Community Action Group (Fil-Am CAG) and chair emeritus of NaFFAA Region 2 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, hailed the Ravelo’s assumption of command of Lincoln as another pride of the Filipinos.

Captain Ravelo hails from San Diego, CA. He is a 1987 graduate of the University of Southern California, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering through the NROTC program. Upon graduation and commissioning he reported to NAS Pensacola to commence flight training and was subsequently designated an unrestricted naval aviator in September 1989.

Captain Ravelo has served with the Chargers of HS-14 in all of his fleet aviation tours, eventually commanding the squadron from 2005 to 2007. As a Charger he flew the SH-3H in USS Ranger (CV 61) and the SH-60F/HH-60H in USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63). During his tours with the Chargers he participated in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Southern Watch and Operation Restore Hope. During his command tour, the squadron established the first helicopter detachment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Philippines and JTF-510/515.

USS Abraham Lincoln is a Nimitz-class supercarrier, one of ten nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in service with the U.S. Navy. It can operate for 20 years at sea without refueling. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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