Best sailor on US command ship is Pinoy
The best sailor on the USS Blue Ridge — the "finest flagship" of the United States — is a Filipino, one of the ship's ranking officials said.
LtJG Clinton Beaird, Public Affairs Officer, said of Filipino Senior Chief Petty Officer Ed Agustin: "He’s the best sailor that we have on board."
The USS Blue Ridge is the US Navy's most technologically advanced ship. It is the permanent flagship of the navy's Seventh Fleet.
During Operations "Desert Storm" and "Desert Shield" in the 1990s, the USS Blue Ridge served as the flagship for the Commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command.
Beaird said Agustin, 47, was one of the 76 Filipinos serving on the USS Blue Ridge. The Filipinos represent about 12 percent of the ship's nearly 1,000 crew members.
Asked by GMA News Online why he was considered as the "best sailor" of USS Blue Ridge, Agustin said, "Dito sa military, nag-eexcel ang mga Pilipino. Kasi karamihan ang mga nagjo-join sa Navy sa US bata pa, 17 or 18 years old. Tayo, [mga Pilipino], nagjo-join mga 24 [years old] na, mature na, mas dedicated na sa trabaho."
Agustin, one of the ship's sailors recruited from Subic Bay in the Philippines, said he was in charge of the ship's maintenance.
He said the last time he came home to the Philippines was "two or three years ago. Exciting. I was looking forward to sinangag, diniguan, papaitan."
Manila: 'A favorite port of sailors'
Captain Daniel Grieco, who assumed command of the USS Blue Ridge in May last year, said: "Manila has long been a favorite port visit for sailors. This visit provides our sailors the opportunity to appreciate the unique Philippine culture and to experience the sights and sounds of this busy international city."
A decorated officer, Grieco holds master's degrees in Business Administration (from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University) and National Security Affairs and Strategic Studies (from the US Naval War College).
Captain Derek Rey, who was born and raised in the US but whose parents are both Filipinos, said he was looking forward not only to visiting places such as Intramuros or Corregidor but also tasting Pinoy food.
"I like nilaga, pancit, lumpia — anything you have in birthday parties," Rey said.
Rey said he told his colleagues at the USS Blue Ridge that "the values of the Filipinos are
very much aligned with the Navy and Marine Corps.
"They [Filipinos] value honor, courage, and commitment and hard work. Those are the values that we embody in the military as well," Rey said.
He thinks his colleagues would "feel right at home in the Philippines."
Jen Romnick Escano, a satellite communications operator, was also born and raised in the US to Filipino parents. "My mom is Caviteño but my dad is from Pangasinan."
Escano said, "It’s nice to come back to the mother country."
He said the last time he was in the Philippines, he was "too young." Now he feels he can appreciate the country and its culture even more. "I can’t wait to have balut. A lot of my friends are afraid of balut but I'm not," he said.
All in the "Navie"
Meanwhile, a junior officer, Ensign Maria Josefa Veloria, 25, enlisted in the US Navy as a Logistics Specialist after graduating from the Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Illinois.
A daughter of Brig. Gen. Mariano Veloria, Maryjo — Pepay to her family and friends — ranked first out of 800 sailors in Military Excellence.
A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1979, Gen. Veloria is now the commander of the 53rd Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army.
She has visited 34 countries and Dubai was the place she liked best. "Iba po talaga siya sa mga napuntahan ko," Maryjo said.
Her mom Navie, who welcomed her at the Manila South Harbor with her dad, said she was the first "Navie" member of the family.
In jest, their mom said all of her four children followed in her footsteps and chose to become Navy personnel and not an Army man like their father.
First cousin of Migz Zubiri
Meanwhile, gunnery sergeant Elwin Zubiri, 31, a first cousin of former Senator Miguel "Migz" Zubiri, said his job was to be a "liaison between the Navy and the Marine corps."
He said he was the only Filipino marine officer on board the USS Blue Ridge.
Zubiri said he feels a little nervous whenever he hears negative news about the Philippines or its neighboring countries.