By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Alan Gragg, USS Makin Island Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - USS Makin Island (LHD 8) Ceremonial Choir showcased its talent by performing three songs to open the final day of the week-long National Naval Officers Association (NNOA) Leadership, Professional Development and Training Conference in San Diego, Aug. 5.
Representatives from all three sea services, as well as many Department of Defense civilians, attended the 39th Annual NNOA conference, Aug. 1-5. NNOA is an organization dedicated to providing support to the sea services in developing a diverse officer corps through recruitment, retention, and career development.
"We were all really excited to do this performance for all these officers," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Marvin Thomas, who serves as the choir director. "This is really an honor for us, and a privilege. It's rewarding to be able to showcase our talents and represent our ship, and when we sing for civilians, we also get to represent the Navy."
Makin Island's choir performed the national anthem, "Amazing Grace," and "God Bless America," to open the final day of the NNOA conference.
Thomas said he predicts the choir will conduct up to 20 events on the ship's upcoming maiden deployment, including possibly performing for partner and host nation dignitaries.
Choir member Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Ashley Payter said she is looking forward to the opportunity to enhance international relations through song.
"I'm hoping that we get to sing for some foreign diplomats," she said. "That would make for a memorable deployment."
Payter said she has also enjoyed the opportunities the choir has provided her, and likes how it builds camaraderie among the ship's crew.
"I think the most rewarding thing is that the rest of our ship, our Shipmates, are actually behind us and represent us," said Payter.
Makin Island's choir has performed for numerous events including retirement ceremonies; opening for singers Ronnie Millsap and Kenny Loggins; singing for former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during their visit to the ship; and performing the national anthem at San Diego Padres baseball games, and at San Diego State University.
Many members of the choir said they hope to incorporate Marines, who will be aboard Makin Island during deployment, to make the musical diplomacy a joint-service effort.
Commissioned in 2009, Makin Island is the Navy's newest Wasp-class amphibious assault ship capable of utilizing surface and air assets to move Marine forces ashore. The ship is named in honor of the daring World War II raid carried out by Marine Raider Companies A and B, Second Raider Battalion, on Japanese held Makin Island August 17-18, 1942. LHD 8 is the second ship to bear the name USS Makin Island.