SAN DIEGO - The Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO) commenced their 32nd annual convention, Aug. 6, with a youth outreach program held aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8).
ANSO fosters the growth, advancement and recognition of Hispanic officers and enlisted personnel in the uniformed naval services, encompassing the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The annual convention focuses on leadership, professional development and training.
Retired Rear Adm. Will Rodriguez, ANSO's president, welcomed the attendees comprised of two sixth-grade classes from four elementary schools in the San Ysidro school district.
"That's when they really start focusing on math and science," Rodriguez said. "These are really sharp kids, and they'll understand the material being presented to them."
The ANSO president identified Makin Island as an ideal site for the event. Former Makin Island aviation maintenance officer, and ANSO member, Chief Warrant Officer Alvaro Angel coordinated the ship visit.
"They're the latest and greatest in terms of technology (USS Makin Island), and he (Angel) worked while they were on deployment to make this happen," Rodriguez explained. "We started planning for this back in January."
The students split up into groups and toured Makin Island's spaces, viewing a flight deck fire fighting demonstration and learning the intricate planning required in flight deck control. The port 25mm gun mount offered the visitors a sample of the ship's offensive capabilities, while the well deck displayed Makin Island's landing craft air cushion (LCAC) and landing craft utility (LCU) launching abilities. A Coast Guard search and rescue demonstration with a helicopter and cutter off the ship's bow elicited cheers and applause from the attendees.
Lunch on the mess decks with the Sailors brought the ship visit portion to a close, but the event continued with numerous displays and demonstrations on the pier. Construction Battalion Mobile Unit 303 had a heavy equipment display and Navy SEALs offered a mental toughness obstacle course, challenging the attendees to throw a football through a display and perform pull-ups to bring the conference's first day to conclusion.
Eleven-year-old Preston Precious, a San Ysidro Middle School student, expressed his enthusiasm for his first visit to a U.S. Navy warship.
"It was so big and awesome," Precious said. "I liked learning what the fire fighters do and the search and rescue was really cool. I got a lot of water in my face. My dad was in the Navy, but I didn't know much about it before today."
Rodriguez emphasized the day's events were designed to achieve two objectives - raise awareness of the Navy and perform community outreach.
"We're not recruiting, but we want to open up their eyes to other opportunities that are out there," Rodriquez said. "Seventy-five percent of today's young men and women are ineligible to come into the armed forces because they don't meet the physical fitness requirements, they don't have a high school diploma or they have a serious criminal record. It's incumbent upon us in uniform to give back to our community, and we should be concerned about who our reliefs are and who their reliefs are. This is a national strategic issue."
The ANSO convention concludes Aug. 10.