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Navy celebrates diverse forces

By Robert Fluegel

Special to the News-Herald

Sailors and Department of Defense civilians assigned to Naval Information Forces, Naval Network Warfare Command, Tenth Fleet, Suffolk and Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command gathered to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in a recent ceremony.

Rear Adm. Matthew J. Kohler, commander of Naval Information Forces, delivered the observance’s opening remarks and introduced the guest speaker at the May 24 ceremony.

Rear Adm. Peter A. Gumataotao, deputy chief of staff of strategic plans and policy for NATO Supreme Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, a native of Guam served as guest speaker for the event held in the Information Dominance Corps Hall of Heroes auditorium in Suffolk.

“Today we take this time to pause and to celebrate,” said Gumataotao. “It’s not just a celebration of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders within our Navy and military but it’s a celebration of the greatest strength of our country, which is diversity.”

Gumataotao considers himself fortunate to live in a country where there are no limits to opportunities nor to what can be done with those opportunities.

Gumataotao challenged the audience to take the shot when given the opportunity.

“There’s greatness in you that many of you don’t know, and good leaders will take a risk on you,” he said. “Live your life for some greater purpose other than yourself.”

On May 7, 1990, President George H.W. Bush issued a proclamation designating May 1990 as the first AAPI Heritage Month, changing the observance from a week to a month.

This year’s theme, “Walk Together, Embrace Differences, Build Legacies,” encouraged all sailors and civilian employees to reflect on the influences of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders on U.S. history.

According to the Naval Heritage and History Command, there are 24,500 such sailors serving in the Navy today, including eight admirals and 235 master chiefs and senior chief petty officers. They represent more than 56 ethnic groups, speaking more than 100 languages from Asia and the Pacific Islands, living in the United States.

AAPI Heritage Month offers an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions those cultures have made to the nation, reflect on the challenges they still face and recommit to making the American dream a reality for everyone.

Naval Information Force’s mission is to support operational commanders ashore and afloat by providing combat-ready information warfare forces that are quickly deployable, fully trained, properly manned and capably equipped.