Sailors travel from Japan to visit Santa Barbara to learn about their ship’s namesake
Four sailors stationed in Japan embarked on a different kind of tour this week, traveling more than 5,000 miles to visit California and learn more about their ship’s namesake: former President Ronald Reagan.
It was a whirlwind three-day visit for the quartet, starting with a tour of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley before heading to Santa Barbara to peruse the Reagan Ranch Center and Rancho Del Cielo, the former president’s vacation home in Goleta.
ETCM John J. Holzhauer, a command representative; ABH1 Benjamin Meisner, Senior Sailor of the Year 2021; BM1 Rosben Constant, Junior Sailor of the Year 2021; and MC2 Erica Bechard, a communications specialist, made the excursion.
ETCM Holzhauer, originally from Clinton, Okla., said the trip reestablished the relationship between those stationed on the USS Reagan and the library, foundation and ranch.
The trip “is to ensure that we are living the legacy of Ronald Reagan as we represent his namesake on one of the largest assets the United States military owns and to help preserve that legacy as part of being known as the great communicator, the way (former President Reagan) communicated with the world and how we use the USS Ronald Reagan to communicate with our partners in the Pacific Ocean to reaffirm that we will be there for them and they will be there for us,” ETCM Holzhauer, 45, told the News-Press.
The USS Reagan, commissioned in 2003, was initially homeported in San Diego before moving to Yokosuka, Japan in late 2015. It is the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier and is still deployed to Yokosuka.
It recently completed a five-month deployment across the 5th and 7th Fleet areas and began a scheduled maintenance period in mid-January.
The ship pays homage to the Gipper (as the former president was nicknamed after portraying football player George Gipp in a 1940 film) with historical artifacts and the design of certain shipboard spaces.
And the sailors, who have spent countless hours working aboard the USS Reagan, were eager to learn more about their ship’s namesake during their trip to California.
“Usually when you’re on the ship, you don’t really get the story or hear some of the things about Ronald Reagan,” Petty Officer First Class Constant, a 29-year-old from Miami, told the News-Press. “It really was an honor.”
Although he grew up in Illinois, former President Reagan would eventually relocate to California as he pursued his career in the entertainment industry. He served in the military and was California’s 33rd governor.
Both Mr. Constant and Mr. Holzhauer have been to California before, but this trip marked their first time in Santa Barbara.
The trip was coordinated with representatives from Rancho del Cielo and the Reagan Library.