Third of a series on US Navy: Anchor of US-Philippines Relations
The campaign to name a US Navy warship after Fireman 2nd Class Telesforo Trinidad, recipient of America’s highest and most prestigious award for valor, has been launched. Trinidad was of Filipino descent. Our endeavor is referred to as “USSTTC,” standing for United States Ship Telesforo Trinidad Campaign.
The idea is the fruit of one man’s observance of last October’s Filipino American History Month. US Air Force Col. Nonie Cabana (Ret.) told me: “I ran into Fireman Second Class Telesforo Trinidad and was amazed that we had a Fil-Am sailor who received the Medal of Honor in 1915. At the same time, I remembered an old news item, the US Navy announcing naming an Aircraft Carrier after an African American sailor and cook, Doris 'Dorie' Miller. He received his Navy Cross medal for heroism in Pearl Harbor at WW II’s onset.
“Exposed to this information, I was propelled to launch a campaign to name a Navy Ship after Trinidad. The folks I approached to form this campaign were Doy Heredia, Ray Regis, Tomas Gomez, Dan Gruta, Tony Taguba, Cecilia Gaerlan and Ron Ravelo.”
Col. Cabana, now a faculty member of Texas A&M, San Antonio campus, was also instrumental in having its history department conduct a series of virtual seminars last October, also in observance of “Filipino American History Month,” in which I participated.
Although Nonie retired from the US Air Force, he came to the US a Navy dependent. His adoptive father, who comes from Ternate, Cavite, was a steward on board the gunboat USS Defiance during the Vietnam War. Nonie wished to enlist in the Marines but was dissuaded, instead enlisted with the Air Force immediately after high school in 1974.
Typical of the professional advancement opportunities available in the US military, he started out as an enlisted man, working up to the rank of Staff Sergeant, after which he qualified for Officers Candidate School (OCS); in 1978 he received his 2LT commission.
He retired as full Colonel in 2008, having served both in the Atlantic and Pacific Commands specializing in Logistics. He graduated from the Naval War College (Newport, R.I.)
His only son, ‘Dart’ Cabana, recently received his commission in the US Navy as Ensign, having gone through OCS, starting his navy career as an enlisted sailor.
Fittingly so, the team steering the USSTTC is headed by Captain Ronald L. Ravelo USN (Ret.) as chairman. Col. Cabana is Executive Director with assistance from Ms. Cecilia Gaerlan, (founding and executive director of Bataan Legacy Historical Society), Army Gen. Tony Taguba (Ret.) USNCapt. Dan Gruta (ret.); Santiago “Sonny” Busa, Jr (USMA graduate); RAdm Don McKinnon (Ret); and a host of others.
I said “fittingly so” of Capt. Ravelo because he refers to himself as a ‘ship driver,’ an endearingly teasing epithet. He retired as Commanding Officer (captain/driver) of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the USS Abraham Lincoln. The only Fil-Am to have achieved such distinction.
Ron Ravelo’s father is also from Cavite (Kawit), having also joined the U.S. Navy, retiring as Chief Petty Officer. Ron says: “I was born in Okinawa, Japan during my father’s assignment to that country.”
Ron grew up partly in the Philippines as well as in San Diego California where he graduated (1987) from the University of Southern California, Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, on a Naval ROTC scholarship. Upon commissioning, he commenced flight training at the Pensacola Naval Air Station and earned “unrestricted naval aviator” status. His 30-year naval career encompassed being an anti-submarine warfare helicopter pilot to fighter squadron commander and eventually to “ship driver!”
Ron Ravelo is a distinguished graduate of the University of Redlands, earning a Master of Arts in Management; a graduate of the Naval War College with Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies. He also went through Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and School of Public Health, completing advanced studies in National Preparedness and Leadership.
During his Navy career, Capt. Ravelo received decorations for leadership and professional achievement, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal. He was awarded the 2007 Commander, Naval Air Forces Navy and Marine Association Outstanding Leadership Award for his tour as CO of the “Chargers,” a Strike Fighter Squadron.
He is now a Director of the Scientific Research Corporation, ‘an advanced engineering company providing state-of-the-art solutions in defense, federal, global, and cyber and intelligence markets.’
For purposes of hailing Fil-Am exemplars as inspirational or aspirational icons for our youth, my unsolicited advice for our ‘kababayan’ parents is to also read up on these achievers in the internet, where more information is rendered than space-limited online essays.
Joining and supporting the USSTTC team is RADM Dan McKinnon (Ret.) who coincidentally has just completed a study and written an essay on a recent ship-naming of the US Navy’s latest nuclear aircraft carrier. In the past, while stationed in the Philippines, he also led a successful ship-naming effort. Of such endeavors, “It is a fascinating study of history and process….. one of tradition and protocol” and “very human,” he says.
Speaking of Adm McKinnon, I would be totally remiss if I failed to mention that more than any other individual involved in the long drama of retrieving the Bells of Balangiga, the most exhaustive and authoritative documentation and narrative that he put together made the return of the cherished and historic bells a resounding reality, apart from personally lobbying official Washington.
Of the USSTTC, Adm. McKinnon says that “it is also about an historic political and military alliance….a moment of bonding that also displays a time of solidarity in a cross-Pacific political, military and economic competition,” further making clear that “the Navy and the Administration have an opportunity to step forward with something publicly positive in light of the recent racist events.”
The USSTTC, led by an effective team, is now off to an impressive launch.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.