Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, August 09, 2008

US Naval Base Commander from Olongapo

Fil-Am officer commands US Navy’s flight school base

MILTON, FLORIDA - Naval Air Station Whiting Field mirrors a typical American mid-size town – homes, offices, parks and other amenities to sustain 3,800 people. But it also hosts 120 planes and 150 helicopters of the US Navy. The man charged with keeping this large community and everything in it, is Navy Capt. Enrique "Rick" Sadsad, a 51-year-old Olongapo City native, who rose from the ranks to become one the highest ranking Filipino-Americans in the US Navy.

Whiting Field, about 30 minutes away from Pensacola, is the US Navy’s premier basic flight school. A sign on the entrance of a classroom building says it all – "Through these doors pass the future of naval aviation".

"At Whiting Field we train navy, air force, coast guard and Marine Corps to be pilots, naval aviators," Capt. Sadsad explained. Students include those sent by America’s allies, including a few from the Philippine Navy and Air Force.

"We have the fixed wing part, which are three VT (training) squadrons. They do the primary part of training. Once they finish that, they choose whether to go to jets or helicopters. If they select helicopters they stay at Whiting Field until they earn their wings. The rest of them will go either to Mississippi or Texas to continue their jet training," he elaborated.

Capt. Sadsad is a naval aviator himself, and commanded one of the training squadrons, VT-4, at Whiting Field in 2001. The unit was named best Navy Primary Training Squadron during his tenure.

He has received numerous awards and decorations, in a career that’s already spanned over 30 years.

From Olongapo City

Capt. Sadsad grew up in the East Tapinot district of Olongapo, a city then dominated by Subic Naval Base. But it was the collective influence of three uncles who were already in the US Navy that pushed him to follow the same path. He was already working as a helicopter technician at the Philippine Aerospace Development Corp. in Pasay City when he passed the entrance tests and joined the US Navy at age 21.

"This was when there was still this agreement for the US to recruit so-many Filipinos for the US Navy," he averred.

He reported to "boot camp" in San Diego then to the Aviation Training School in Tennessee. His first assignment was as a jet mechanic with Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 10. He later qualified as a search and rescue swimmer.

At the start of 1990, there were more than 19,000 Filipinos in the enlisted ranks of the US Navy, representing nearly four percent of its total force. They all have their tales of how they overcome discrimination and other barriers. Capt. Sadsad described his shock when he was ordered to clean toilets even after the US Navy had already trained him to fix its fighter jets. But he took it and endured, he says.

"Went to school at night, went to school on weekends and got my degree in aviation management (at the Southern Illinois University)," he averred. He was later accepted in the Aviation Officer Candidate School, received his commission as an Ensign, and immediately went to flight school.

Capt. Sadsad flew aboard P-3 Orion "submarine hunters" and later qualified as an instructor. In between missions, he was able to earn a Masters degree in Business Organizational Management from the University of La Verne.

In 1992, he served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, occupying various positions, including as anti-air/anti-surface warfare weapons coordinator and tactical action officer. Those duties, he said in civilian jargon, meant he was basically in charge of defending the flattop.

He was designated Commander Patrol Wings of the US Pacific Fleet and OIC of Naval Air Station North Island in California.

In 1996, Capt. Sadsad became aircraft maintenance officer for Patrol Squadron 47 in Hawaii, and later became Head Enlisted Community Manager under the Chief of Naval Operations Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division in Washington DC.

This was followed by command of VT-4 in Whiting Field. In 2003, he was made executive and operations officer of Fleet Air Keflavik in Iceland. Two years later, he was designated chief 6th Fleet liaison officer with NATO Strike and Support Forces in Naples, Italy.

"In my last year in Naples I was working as chief of staff of Maritime Air Naples. I was basically responsible for the command and control of all maritime patrol aircraft in southern Europe," he explained.

In 1989, there were only 588 Fil-Am officers in the US Navy. By 1992, this has grown to 653 – nearly half of all ethnic Asian naval officers. They were composed of 14 Captains, 46 Commanders (who included Cmdr. Tem Bugarin, the first Fil-Am to command his own ship, the tank landing ship USS Saginaw), 89 Lieutenant-Commanders and 414 junior officers. That number has swelled as second-generation Fil-Ams, especially those who graduated from the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, rise up the command ladder.

Perseverance and luck

Capt. Sadsad has cut his own trail up the ranks of the US Navy. "There was a time Filipinos were not allowed to do any other ratings except steward-type ratings. By the time I got in the Navy had opened up the ratings. I was able to become a jet mechanic and when I finally got my citizenship and my college degree, that opened a lot of doors for me," he explained.

"I attribute a lot of where I am now to a desire to get advanced education, and I guess, just to do your job and do it well," he declares.

We asked if he had a formula for success. "A lot of perseverance," he replied, "and a lot of luck".

Capt. Sadsad, his friends say, still has a crack at being an admiral. The US military has a complicated system of setting mandatory retirement, which can be as late as 62 years old. At the senior level, retirement is often dictated by the Pentagon’s policy of attrition.

If he does accomplish this truly impressive feat, he would not be the first, however. Eleanor "Connie" Mariano joined the US Navy in 1981 and served as chief physician in the White House during the Bush and Clinton administrations. For her services, President Clinton promoted her to the rank of Rear Admiral before she retired from the service.

But Capt. Sadsad could be the first Fil-Am "from the line", someone from Olongapo who rose from the ranks to reach such a lofty post. By RODNEY J. JALECO - ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home


This is a joint private blog of volunteers from Subic Bay. It is being maintained primarily to collate articles that may be of importance to decision making related to the future of Subic Bay and as a source of reference material to construct the history of Subic Bay.

The articles herein posted remains the sole property of original authors and publications which has full credits to the articles.

Disclaimer: Readers should conduct their own research and due diligence before using any article herein posted for whatever intended purpose it may be. This private web log will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a reader's reliance on information obtained from volunteers of this private blog.

www.subicbay.ph, http://olongapo-subic.com, http://sangunian.com, http://olongapo-ph.com, http://oictv.com, http://brgy-ph.com, http://subicbay-news.com, http://batanggapo.com 16 January 2012