USS Carl Vinson Celebrates Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage

USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1’s American Heritage Observance Committee (AHOC) conducted a program celebrating the heritage and dedication of Asian/Pacific American Sailors on May 22 with the theme “Building Leadership: Embracing Cultural Values and Inclusion”.

Two Sailors aboard Carl Vinson, Personnel Specialist 1st Class Tulimalefoi Mauga Sarvis, administrative department’s leading petty officer with American Samoan heritage, and Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Ray Saaga Asuega, a security patrolman with Samoan heritage, shared their cultural backgrounds during the ceremony. The event also featured several speakers, additional dance routines, a special meal and a cake-cutting.

“In each tribe we have what’s called a paramount chief, and my great-great grandfather was a paramount chief,” Sarvis said. “He was one of the founders when Samoa became a territory of the U.S. When they signed, my great-great grandfather was there.”

Though his official job was as a detective and police officer, Asuega’s father was also a chief of his tribe. His father’s leadership and the family-oriented culture in which he was raised influenced him greatly, ultimately motivating him to join the Navy.

“I see the Navy as a home,” Asuega said. “My aunt was in the Navy. She was a chief, she retired, and she told me that she met so many people, had long relationships with friends and that it was a community.”

Similar to Asuega, Sarvis said she has carried all the values and life lessons she gained from her childhood in American Samoa with her when she came to the United States and joined the Navy.

“From growing up back home and not having anything and then coming to the United States and joining the Navy, I’ve gotten perspective and strengthened the values I grew up with. It’s all helped me get to where I’m at right now in the Navy,” Sarvis said.

Both Asuega and Sarvis decided to honor their heritage by teaching other Sailors of their cultural customs and performing traditional dances at the event.

Asuega performed the Haka, a Samoan war cry traditionally performed before battle.

Sarvis presented another Samoan dance, the Taualuga, usually performed as the grand finale of a social function such as a wedding reception or festival. The word “taualuga” refers to securing the last board of the topmost rafter in the construction of a house, so the dance signifies the final moments of an event.

Sarvis said performing the Taualuga gave her a great sense of pride because it gave her the chance to teach her Shipmates about her heritage. She wants the new generation of Samoans to understand where they come from and not lose their cultural identity.

“Back in the days, culture was taught. Now, it’s like we’re losing it,” Sarvis explained. “That’s why, when it comes to certain months like this, I think it’s a good opportunity to share culture with the new generation, because I know they’re missing out on a lot on our history and where we come from.”

Both Sarvis and Asuega said they appreciated the Navy affording them the opportunity to teach people about their culture. For Asuega, it’s one more reason why the Navy feels like a second home.

“Participating in events like this, you meet new people, get to know people and you get to understand where they come from,” Asuega said. “I like participating with different cultures and I love teaching other people about my culture.”

Other Sailors also highlighted the Hawaiian and Tahitian cultures through traditional dances, and Carl Vinson’s supply department treated all hands to various Asian cultures by serving dishes like Asian stir-fry soup, beef caldereta and Filipino pancit.

The day was complete with a cake-cutting ceremony during which Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1 Rear Adm. David F. Steindl and keynote speaker Lt. Cmdr. Sylvaine W. Wong, Staff Judge Advocate for CSG-1, cut the cake together and talked with Carl Vinson Sailors.

The Navy has a long-standing tradition of celebrating the diversity of its fighting force, joining with the nation each month in recognizing the immeasurable contributions of Americans belonging to various cultural backgrounds. During the month of May, the Navy commemorates generations of service from Sailors of Asian and Pacific Islander lineage.

The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese people to the United States on May 7, 1843 and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks of the transcontinental railroad were Chinese immigrants.

Carl Vinson recently completed its Mid-Cycle Material Assessment (MCMA) inspection and is currently pierside at Naval Air Station North Island.

Press Release, May 24, 2013