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Naval History and Service Run Deep

The following post was written by CDR Leo Albea, Commanding Officer, USS WAYNE E. MEYER DDG-108

110829-N-AB355-030 -- South China Sea -- Cmdr. Leo Albea, commanding officer of guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108), looks out from the bridge wing of his ship as it steams through the South China Sea near sunset, Aug 29.

25 AUG, San Bernardino Strait

Making the entrance to San Bernardino Strait was so memorable.  Once I sighted Mt Bulosan, I knew we were close to my parent’s home town.

Though we were just passing through, I couldn’t help but think how my parents grew up just on the other side of the strait, and now how their son was sailing through with a US Navy battlegroup.  Even better, I was sailing through in command of USS Wayne E. Meyer, an opportunity I could only imagine until today. With Albay Bay just north of the entrance to San Bernardino, the thought of being so close warmed me, knowing that I have family there.

My father just landed in Manila with my brother and I’ve been able to keep tabs on them via email.  Everything is in place for them to fly out to the ship and join me. Its nice knowing that I can keep in touch with them as we’re sailing through the islands.

Announced the entrance to San Bernardino Straits to the crew and invited them topside to take pictures.  I told them it was about as close to a volcano that I would ever want to pass.  Took some time on 1MC to share the story of Taffy 3 and their exploits off the Battle of Samar, which occurred just south of our current position.  I’ve always enjoyed sailing so close to these historic locations and battles from World War II. Every deployment brings another opportunity to remember.

27 Aug , South China Sea to Manila Bay

Started transiting from South China Sea to Manila.  Spent the rev watch dodging merchants in the approaches to Manila Bay.  In the back of my mind I worried about my father and brother making it to the US Embassy on time. Started transit with a shipmate, Matt McGonigle, in command of USS Pinckney as we both head into port with USS Mobile Bay and USS John C. Stennis following a few miles astern.

As day began to break, enjoyed seeing the tall jagged coastline on Luzon.  Hours of darkness with no illumination and a visible horizon makes for a sporty transit.  The sun coming up is always a relief this close to traffic and land.

Starting to see Corregidor now and it begins to hit me how excited I am to be right here right now, in command of a US Navy Destoyer and sailing past Corregidor. We entered the southern traffic separation scheme and when we approached within 2.5 nm, Wayne E. Meyer rendered honors to Corregidor.  I joined my Executive Officer, LCDR Peter Hoegel, on the port bridgewing.  Visibility wasn’t great, and the skies were overcast with a steady drizzle.  Still, as I saluted, I couldn’t help feel a moment of nostalgia and pride in my family.  My Uncle Manoy, a Philippine Army Officer during WWII was at Corregidor and also survived the Bataan Death March. Even today, I feel honored to have heard the stories directly from him when I was a young boy and he came to visit.

My own parents were children who remembered the Americans returning and marching through their towns.

Just picked up the pilot and now looking for the helo to bring my dad and brother onboard.  Not an easy task in this weather.  I am worried.

Not everyday your dad flies in on a helicopter.

My Command Master Chief, CMDCM(SW) Charbonneau greeted my dad in the hangar with all the new selectees lined up to greet him.  He brought him up to the pilothouse.  I was still trying to regain track from flight quarters.  CMC whispered in my ear that he was there and when I turned around and saw my dad and I almost cried. He almost cried too and I think in an instant we both felt how important this day was for both of us and for our family who couldn’t be here with us here in the Philippines and back home in Oxnard, Ca. I gave him a big hug.  The pilothouse fell silent. I hugged my brother and I was just glad they made it onboard safely.  I told my dad to get in the COs chair.  He tried to refuse for just a second, but he knew how important it was for me to see him in the seat. This was a big win for the Navy, and I’ll always be grateful to the leadership in CSG 3 that made this happen.

110827-N-AB355-016 -- MANILA, Philippines -- Cmdr. Leo Albea, commanding officer of guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) speaks with his father, Retired Master Chief Mess Specialist Leo Albea, and brother, Leo Albea, on the bridge of his ship. The Filipino-American family got the rare opportunity to spend time together as the ship anchored in Manila Bay.

Anchoring was a varsity event today with the wind and seas picking up quite a bit right as we approached.  The usual suspects that tend to foul a plan showed up today – traffic, commercial ships not in correct anchorages, rain, wind, a navigation console locking up and no head or drop bearing that we could identify.  At the end of the day, having anchored safely and with my father onboard, it was the best SWO day I could ever have, here now in Manila Bay. I’ll always be grateful for this opportunity. I am swelling with pride to be a Filipino-American and a United States Navy Sailor, here in the Philippines where in so many ways it all started not just for my family, but for many families whose ties to the United States run for generations, thanks to the U.S. Navy and the shared history and sacrifice both countries made on each others behalf.

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