Thursday, May 28, 2009

GONZALEZ Sailors Receive the USNA Class of 66 Awards

When I took command of GONZALEZ in February 2008, I brought with me a short list of “historic” events in which I wanted GONZALEZ Sailors to participate.
1. Have DDG 66 sail with CG 66, USS HUE CITY, and take the first photos of the two ships with links to Freddy Gonzalez sailing together.
2. Host a very special commemoration on the 66th anniversary of the Battle of Midway.
3. Have Mrs. Gonzalez visit the ship.
4. Collect water from the seven seas, or at least from every body of water we sailed in, and then have GONZALEZ Sailors attend the Blessing of the Fleets Ceremony at the Navy Memorial in Washington DC, and
5. Establish a special relationship with the Naval Academy Class of 66.

Well, having already completed #1 thru #4, we finally achieved #5 two weeks ago. Truth be told, the USNA Class of 66 had already established a great relationship with DDG 66, but to complete the "historic" list we finally awarded the 2008 Class of 66 Leadership Awards to GONZALEZ Sailors a couple of weeks ago.

Congratulations and BRAVO ZULU to LTJG Vince Falcon and BM2(SW) Aijan Deng! Several members of the USNA Class of 66, including Class President Vice Admiral (ret) Michael Haskins visited GONZALEZ and presented the awards. The First Lieutenant and Chief Boatswains Mate received the award for BM2 as he is currently on an Individual Augmentation assignment supporting the deployment of USNS COMFORT.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

GONZALEZ Family and Friends, I hope you are continuing to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend. Last year, the ship was deployed to the 6th Fleet Area of Responsibility on Memorial Day, conducting operations in the Eastern Mediterranean. We paused last year on Memorial Day to read Freddy Gonzalez' Congressional Medal of Honor citation and then held a Critical Days of Summer Safety Stand Down. This year we are obviously in home port and able to spend all or part of the weekend with our family and friends. Last Friday before we put down liberty call, we again paused to continue the tradition of reading Freddy's citation, but added to it by summarizing the citations of the servicemen who have also received the Congressional Medal of Honor for our current conflicts.

So, I thought I would share the words from our Memorial Day Captain's Call. The Captain's Call followed an awards presentation and also included information on summer safety and changes to our long range scheduled which I have not included.
Memorial Day 2009_Captain's Call

Good morning, Shipmates. First of all, congratulations to everyone who was selected for advancement yesterday. Well done - a round of applause for our award recipients and advanced Sailors. It’s finally starting to feel like summer again after our brief chilly spell, and at least according to the weather service, it’s going to be a beautiful three day weekend!

So this Monday is Memorial Day – a day off for those not on duty, but more importantly a day to honor those who served and continue to serve our country. So, naturally I want to speak for a few minutes about Memorial Day first and then we’ll talk about the critical days of summer, safety, and some important changes to our long range schedule. Memorial Day is set aside to pay tribute to those who paid the supreme sacrifice for our country. And while there are actually quite a few stories as to the origin of Memorial Day, what is known as fact is that 141 years ago on May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued General Order Number 11 to his Veteran's organization the Grand Army of the Republic:

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land…”

The order continued telling the crowd to cherish:

“…tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes. Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance…. “

Lastly, General Logan closed with...

“Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Eventually this day became a national holiday to honor fallen comrades from all our nation's wars, and so today we gather on the flight deck to remember those who served bravely in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq and other conflicts we faced as a nation. We also remember those POW’s and MIA’s who never returned home and the families who have never been able to bury their loved ones.

Memorial Day will always be more special to me because of my service with you onboard GONZALEZ. Having spent the past year and a few months learning and reading as much as I can about Freddy Gonzalez, I have come to realize how much more we as a nation can do to honor our Veterans and more specifically, our true American heroes - our Congressional Medal of Honor winners, Marines like Freddy Gonzalez. First, of all, I hope everyone out here realizes that whether you serve a single term of enlistment or twenty years or more, we will all be veterans ourselves one day. Secondly, and as I posted on our blog several weeks ago from an article written by someone else, how many of us on the flight deck today can name all the Congressional Medal of Honor winners from the current wars in which we are serving? Compare that against how many of us can name at least 1 American Idol winner. The point is certainly not intended to take a shot at American Idol, the point is to note what we consider important in our country. And I’m no different than anyone else. Until I thought about it myself, read the article and then took the time to read the bios of the Soldiers, Marines, and Sailors who had won the Medal of Honor since 9/11, I too, could have named more American Idol winners.

So on this Memorial Day we honor shipmates like Freddy Gonzalez. There is no greater gift a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine can give than to lay down his life for his country, his shipmates, and his God. The gift of one’s life for one’s country must never be forgotten or devalued. In 1971, our Congress made this day into a 3-day weekend with the National Holiday Act. In my humble and junior opinion, that particular act made it easy to be distracted from the spirit and intent of this day. This and every Memorial Day is about our duty to remember and honor the men and women who gave their lives so that we may live in a free country. This and every Memorial Day is about shipmates like Freddy Gonzalez, for all those who have fallen in combat. They were Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, young and old, men and women, from all walks of life and every creed. They fought bravely, and died not in vain, but in the glory of knowing that others will live to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Let us never forget their sacrifices - not today, not on Memorial Day, not on any day.

So for this Memorial Day, we are going to do something old and something new. We are going to take a moment to read Freddy Gonzalez’ Medal of Honor citation once again and then take a moment to honor our most recent Medal of Honor recipients.

Attention to award:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as platoon commander, 3d Platoon, Company A. On 31 January 1968, during the initial phase of Operation Hue City, Sgt. Gonzalez' unit was formed as a reaction force and deployed to Hue to relieve the pressure on the beleaguered city. While moving by truck convoy along Route No. 1, near the village of Lang Van Lrong, the marines received a heavy volume of enemy fire. Sgt. Gonzalez aggressively maneuvered the marines in his platoon, and directed their fire until the area was cleared of snipers. Immediately after crossing a river south of Hue, the column was again hit by intense enemy fire. One of the marines on top of a tank was wounded and fell to the ground in an exposed position. With complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Gonzalez ran through the fire-swept area to the assistance of his injured comrade. He lifted him up and though receiving fragmentation wounds during the rescue, he carried the wounded marine to a covered position for treatment. Due to the increased volume and accuracy of enemy fire from a fortified machine gun bunker on the side of the road, the company was temporarily halted. Realizing the gravity of the situation, Sgt. Gonzalez exposed himself to the enemy fire and moved his platoon along the east side of a bordering rice paddy to a dike directly across from the bunker. Though fully aware of the danger involved, he moved to the fire-swept road and destroyed the hostile position with hand grenades. Although seriously wounded again on 3 February, he steadfastly refused medical treatment and continued to supervise his men and lead the attack. On 4 February, the enemy had again pinned the company down, inflicting heavy casualties with automatic weapons and rocket fire. Sgt. Gonzalez, utilizing a number of light antitank assault weapons, fearlessly moved from position to position firing numerous rounds at the heavily fortified enemy emplacements. He successfully knocked out a rocket position and suppressed much of the enemy fire before falling mortally wounded. The heroism, courage, and dynamic leadership displayed by Sgt. Gonzalez reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps, and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.

And now a moment to recognize those who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marine Corporal Jason Dunham
Smothering a live hand grenade with his helmet and body, Dunham saved the lives of at least two fellow Marines. By his undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and unwavering devotion to duty, Dunham gallantly gave his life for his country.

Army Sergeant First Class Paul Smith
With total disregard for his own life, Smith maintained an exposed position to engage the enemy force. During this action he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.

Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy
While suffering grave gunshot wounds and knowingly exposing himself to enemy fire, Murphy’s undaunted courage, intrepid fighting spirit, and inspirational devotion, in the face of certain death, ultimately led to the rescue and recovery of his fallen comrades.

Army Specialist Ross McGinnis
In a gallant act of bravery in which he was mortally wounded, McGinnis pinned a live grenade thrown by an insurgent between his body and a vehicle. His extraordinary heroism and selfless action saved four men from certain serious injury or death.

Navy Petty Officer Second Class Michael Monsoor
Without hesitation and showing no regard for his own life, Monsoor threw himself onto a grenade hurled by an enemy fighter, smothering it to protect his teammates who were lying nearby. His courageous and selfless actions saved the lives of two fellow SEALS.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Gonzalez Sailors are currently at sea conducting a wide variety of tactical, seamanship, and engineering training evolutions. Of course, my favorites are always the no-notice drills or surprising the XO by taking over as boat officer to have a waterline tour of the ship in one of the small boats! And it's been a very good underway for us too, as many new and first term Sailors who reported during our SRA period are having their first chance to see the ship put through her paces. Naturally, the best Sailors in the Navy have risen to the challenge and are already showing off their operational prowess.

But I need to catch up our family and friends on an event which took place two weekends ago when we had a very unique opportunity to host some special guests onboard. As Gonzalez Sailors know, linking the past and the present and finding ways to incorporate heritage and history into our daily routine is easy and one of my favorite parts of the job. I'll let my PAO do the rest. - CO

On Saturday, 2 May, 71 former Sailors and family members from USS Johnston (DD-821) visited the Norfolk-based guided missile destroyer, USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) as part of the Johnston’s annual reunion weekend. Although it is common for Navy ships to give tours, the destroyers Johnston and Gonzalez not only share a special bond and but also came together under a unique set of circumstances.

A month earlier in April, Gonzalez Sailors participated in the Blessing of the Fleets Ceremony in Washington DC. In addition to meeting many of the guests and former Sailors in attendance, the Gonzalez crew had the opportunity to meet Mr. Toby Mack, Vice President of the U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation. The meeting proved to be fortuitous as Mr. Mack had previously volunteered to coordinate a Norfolk ship tour for his former ship, USS Johnston’s forthcoming summer reunion. “At the Blessing of the Fleets Ceremony, Toby asked me if we would host him and his former shipmates for a tour and knowing the great legacy of the name Johnston from the Battle of Leyte Gulf, I couldn’t resist,” said Gonzalez’ Commanding Officer, Commander Brian Fort. “What I didn’t know at the time was the historic link that also binds Johnston and Gonzalez.”

USS Johnston (DD 821) was a Gearing class destroyer laid down in March 1945 and commissioned in August 1946. She was named for her fallen predecessor USS Johnston (DD-557), sunk on October 25, 1944 in the incredibly heroic battle against a much more heavily armed Japanese Task Force at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. For most of her career Johnston was a Cold Warrior, making many deployments to the Mediterranean and operating in the Atlantic and Caribbean out of Newport, Rhode Island and Charleston, South Carolina, but in late 1967 she deployed to the Western Pacific for Vietnam gun line and Tonkin Gulf escort duties. After surviving a typhoon in the mid-Pacific in late 1967 and doing escort duty with USS Ranger in the Gulf of Tonkin during January 1968, Johnston finally arrived off Hue City on 6 February and immediately engaged in intense gunfire support during the height of the Battle of Hue City. Remaining in a continuous gunfire support role until mid-March of 1968, the ship then returned to Charleston having expended over 10,000 5-inch rounds. Two days before Johnston’s arrival off Hue City, on 4 February 1968, Sergeant Freddy Gonzalez gave his own life, displaying gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty, to save his fellow Marines while simultaneously and single-handedly repelling numerous enemy firing positions. The President posthumously awarded Sergeant Gonzalez the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions, the only Marine to be awarded such a decoration for the Battle of Hue City. Meanwhile, Johnston’s actions in the days after Sergeant Gonzalez fell allowed the Marines to continue their assault on Viet Cong forces in the city. Johnston remained in commission until 1980 and was then transferred to the Taiwanese Navy and served until 2004 – an incredible 58 years of continuous service.

When Sailors from the two destroyers met for the first time during the Johnston’s reunion tour, it was an emotional moment for both generations as they learned their linkage in history. “The group of Veterans who came onboard were the best tour group we have had. They were enthusiastic about being here and asked a myriad of questions about the ship, the crew, and the modern day Navy. The contrast between the Navy of yesteryear and today was interesting, and I would gladly lead another tour group for them any day,” commented Gonzalez Petty Officer Lemanda Lovelace.

Gonzalez Petty Officer Stephanie Ramales had a similar experience, “Our meeting with the Sailors of USS Johnston was enjoyable for us, and I think enlightening for them. It gave us the distinct opportunity to show how advanced our ships have become technologically, but more importantly, it showed us that some things never change, like our pride in service. If any of the Sailors from Johnston or their spouses have an opportunity to read an article about their Gonzalez tour, I would like to thank them for coming onboard and allowing us to show them how proud we are to serve our country.”

Mr. Toby Mack couldn’t have agreed more, “The courtesies and professionalism of Gonzalez Sailors were fully apparent as they showed us around their fabulous ship. Our guys were thrilled with the opportunity and fascinated with how far technology has come in 40+ years, as well as how many things haven’t changed. It was the highlight of our reunion by a mile. Gonzalez truly rolled out the red carpet for us, which we deeply appreciate.”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day Mrs. Gonzalez

Mother's Day is alway a special day onboard USS GONZALEZ - not only a day to honor our own mothers, but also a day to honor a remarkable woman who is a national treasure to us, Mrs. Dolia Gonzalez. Sailors onboard Fighting Freddy know we are all part of Mrs. Gonzalez' family. We are all her Sailors, her sons and daughters. Happy Mother's Day, Dolia!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Update from Fighting Freddy

The best news of the day for Fighting Freddy Sailors is that GONZALEZ is finally and fully complete with our maintenance period and back at sea again! Post maintenance Sea Trials are done, and we are underway training and completing required certifications. It's been a long two weeks since my last post and GONZALEZ Sailors have been very busy. Outside of getting ready for sea, we held our quarterly Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Event (see PAO article below), got fully certified for electronic navigation, hosted 71 former USS JOHNSTON (DD 821) Sailors and their family members onboard during their reunion weekend, and even managed to have a GONZALEZ shipmate become a U.S. Citizen in a White House naturalization ceremony with the President in attendance. So, yes, I need to catch up with our blog posts as we have a special visit and leadership awards ceremony forthcoming with the USNA Class of 1966 and our Battle of Midway Commemoration events. So, for now, from the world's best DDG PAO.....
From GONZALEZ Public Affairs:

Sailors from the Norfolk-based destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) held a Bowling Tournament in April fulfilling one of the command’s 2009 Goals to sponsor a Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) event each quarter. The Bowling Tournament, hosted by the Norfolk Naval Station Bowling Alley, was a ship-wide celebration upon completion of a successful maintenance Selective Restrictive Availability (SRA) period. Held during working hours, the tournament was wildly popular among the crew. “It was nice to have a Thursday off to relax and have fun after the yard period,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Rob Lello, the Gonzalez MWR President.

To kick off the MWR event, all lanes were open for recreational bowling, and over the course of the day, Gonzalez sailors consumed 50 pizzas and 700 hot wings. “The food was plentiful,” laughed Gas Turbine Specialist Mechanical 1st Class Terence Rambeau. Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Harold Edge won the Individual High Score Award, bowling 214 in a single game. Edge exclaimed, “I go bowling a lot after work. It was a blast to bowl with the ship!” For his high score, Petty Officer Edge won the use of the Executive Officer’s parking spot for one week.

The main event of the afternoon was a Captain’s Cup competition among the ship’s divisions. CA Division, consisting of Sonar Technicians, triumphed after defeating a combined Supply Department Team in the final bracket. “We were down the entire tournament, but I knew we would win,” boldly said Ensign Tim Henderson, the CA Division Officer. Henderson secured CA Division’s victory by bowling three consecutive strikes in the final game.
Next up from the Gonzalez MWR team will be a command picnic in the early part of the summer months.