US Navy Embraces Inclusion during 2013 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

US Navy Embraces Inclusion During 2013 Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

The Navy joins U.S. nation in celebrating the contributions of generations of patriots during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month throughout May.

The Navy announced April 29 in NAVADMIN 115/13, this year’s national theme is “Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion,”

Inclusion is a recognition that diversity of ideas, experiences, areas of expertise, and backgrounds contribute significantly to the Navy’s ability to fulfill its variety of missions both today and in the future. USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) exemplified this year’s theme of embracing cultural values and inclusion by utilizing the talents, language skills, and cultural backgrounds of three Sailors to further their mission in the US Navy’s first bilateral anti-piracy exercise with China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)).

In September 2012, USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) and the Chinese Frigate Yi Yang (FF 548) conducted visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) drills near the Horn of Africa to enhance cooperative anti-piracy efforts. During the exercise, three Churchill Sailors were utilized as translators.

Ship’s Serviceman 2nd Class Junwen Liang, Ship’s Serviceman Seaman Qing Su, and Logistics Specialist 3rd Class Guo Rui Liu, all Chinese immigrants, played an integral role in the success of the exercise by bridging both the language and the cultural gaps between the two crews.

Liang, who immigrated to the United States from China at age 20, said he came to America speaking almost no English and joined the Navy after pursuing further education in New York. During the exercise, Liang performed as translator for Cmdr. Chris D. Stone, commanding officer of USS Winston S. Churchill.

“This is a unique opportunity to use both my native and adopted languages in service of my country,” said Liang. According to Stone, “On-site translation and briefing on customs helped ensure solid communication between U.S. Navy and PLA(N) Sailors, along with aiding us in understanding the cultural nuances that help both sides better understand each other.”

“My opportunity to take part in this exchange, and in the Navy itself, reminds me that I serve a country that accepts people from many different parts of the world,” said Liang. “No matter where and how I serve, I’m still serving for my freedom and my country.”

Asians and Pacific Islanders of various nationalities and ancestry have been serving in our Navy since the early 19th century. Asians and Pacific Islanders have continued to be at the forefront as leaders in every aspect of American life, including Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii’s first Congressman and the first Japanese American to serve in Congress. Having enlisted in the US Army at age 17 and serving during the Second World War, Senator Inouye was a great champion of all the armed forces throughout his career. He received the Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism and indomitable leadership during an engagement in World War II. On Dec 17, 2012 Senator Inouye passed away, leaving behind a noted legacy of leadership and a drive to enhance inclusion in our Armed Forces and across our country.

In 2013, Sailors of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage comprise 6.5 percent of our active duty Naval force. Over 20,000 active duty Sailors, 4,000 Reservists, and 18,900 Navy civilian employees identify as Asian American or Pacific Islander, including 10 flag officers, 9 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), and 176 master chief petty officers. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders encompass over 50 ethnic and language groups, representing a vast array of cultures, nationalities, and historical roots.

Directed by Congress in 1978 and established by Presidential Proclamation in 1979, Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week was first observed the week of May 4, 1979. In 1990, President George H. W. Bush expanded the observance to encompass the entire month, and in 1992, Congress passed a law permanently designating May as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month.

Naval Today Staff, April 30, 2013; Image: US Navy