Story by Paul Long, FLEACT, Yokosuka Public Affairs
(IWO JIMA, Japan) — Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) and chief select petty officers from several Fleet Activities; (FLEACT)
Yokosuka commands visited Iwo Jima Sept, 14. Iwo Jima is the site of the first battle on Japanese soil, between American and Japanese forces during World War II.
The idea for the trip came after CPOs on Yokosuka discussed various team-building training scenarios for the chief selects.
“One of the ideas was to climb Mt. Fuji which would have been nice,” said Senior Chief Master-at-Arms Amanda Beachy, of the Security Department. “(But) the opportunity to come out to Iwo Jima proved to be more of a team-building experience, tying history and heritage together into an event with the chief selects and genuine chiefs.”
The trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity for all who visited the island.
“I’ve been stationed in Japan for seven years,” said Pamela Caliste, a Chief Intelligence Specialist assigned to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan. “I’ve seen the movies and realized there is so much history here, and getting the opportunity to land on this island and see the places that I’ve seen in the movies, and make that connection, it was a real humbling experience.”
For Chief (sel) Intelligence Specialist Jonathan Barton, assigned to Commander, Submarine Group Seven, this trip was extra special for him as his grandfather, Charles Barton, had landed on the beach designated Red Two with the 5th Division, 27th Marines during the battle.
“When I found out, I literally cried,” Barton said. “It just means a whole lot to me. My fellow selects gave me the honor of presenting (the history lesson on) Mt. Suribachi. I had already done a lot of research, but this was an opportunity to do even more. I’m just so honored to be here.”
Barton presented the history of the Battle of Iwo Jima while six of his fellow chief selects re-enacted the flag raising.
Chief (sel) Culinary Specialist Marcela Ganoza, who works in the base galley, didn’t know much about the island before this trip. Ganoza’s presentation was about Sgt. Mike Strank, one of the six men who raised the flag in the iconic photo.
“I didn’t know a lot about Iwo Jima before the trip,” said Ganoza. “After studying it and figuring out who the guys were on the mountain, I happened to pick (Strank) and it turns out I can see myself being him. He was one of the older guys in the group and he was always thinking about his guys, and I can identify with that. I am very excited to come here.”
IWO JIMA FACTS: The Battle of Iwo Jima, code named Operation Detachment, took place from February 19 to March 6, 1945. The island is located 650 nautical miles south of Tokyo, and is eight square miles in area. It was occupied by the U.S. from 1945 until 1968, when it was returned to Japanese control and currently is used by all branches of the Japanese Self-Defense forces. The U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing Five, based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, uses the airfield for field carrier landing practice.
There were more than 6,800 U.S. servicemen killed, 26,000 wounded; Japanese estimated over 18,300 killed and 216 taken prisoner. Joe Rosenthal, an Associated Press photographer, took the iconic, Pulitzer Prize – winning picture of five U.S. Marines and one U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman raising the American flag on top of Mt. Suribachi.
The island now is called by its Japanese name Iwo To which means Sulfur Island.