Sailors come home from overseas duty

May 30, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ

Staff Writer

It was easy to see something was up at the Spanish-style home on El Centro's Heil Avenue this week as red, white and blue streamers adorned the outside, along with an American flag and hand-written posters.

The event was the return of Michael Carrillo and other locals from a tour of the Western Pacific onboard the aircraft carrier USS Stennis CVN 74.

Carrillo, a 19-year-old enlisted man, joined the Navy a little more than eight months ago. After boot camp in Great Lakes, Mich., and aviation school in Florida, he was attached to Stennis, "four months and five days" ago, he said Wednesday.


Carrillo works at what he calls a blue shirt on hanger bay two. He is an E-1, aviation boatswain's mate handler. His job is called "chock and chain." When the carrier's planes land and are lowered to Carrillo's hanger, he and other blue shirts chock the planes and chain them to prevent movement.

"The work's not hard and there's a lot of good people on the boat," he said. "We do have the nicest boat in the Navy, at least for aircraft carriers."

Carrillo said the Navy lifestyle is "totally different" from that of a civilian, when he would just hang out with his "homies," the 2000 Central Union High School graduate said.

He caught up with Stennis in the Arabian Sea, and said he enjoyed the liberty ports the ship visited. Those ports included four days in Bahrain, four days in Perth, Australia, five days in Hobart, Tasmania, and two days in Hawaii.

He seemed to like Perth the best.

"We just went out and partied," he said. "They like Americans over there."

With Carrillo was Calexico resident Eddie Lopez, 19, who is an aviation ordnanceman striker, or one who is seeking to specialize in that particular Navy rating. Lopez will complete one year in the Navy in June, and has been aboard Stennis since Oct. 4.

He is a 2001 graduate of Aurora High School in Calexico. He said he enlisted because of the expectation of a better future, to secure a career and "we all say, to travel around the world."

Lopez said he enlisted for four years and will re-enlist for another four. He said the Navy offers significant re-enlistment bonuses.

Both Carrillo and Lopez said they spend much of their free time checking their e-mail, watching movies, playing computer and card games, basketball and soccer.

Both agreed the food leaves something to be desired on the ship and their first stops after Stennis pulled in Tuesday was Jack-in-the-Box for Lopez — only because he couldn't get to an In-and-Out Burgers — and McDonald's for Carrillo.

"The best part about the boat is coming home or hitting a good port," Carrillo said.

He joined the Navy to make his family proud and for his future.

"To show them I could do something," he said.

His mom, Susie Carrillo, said she is proud of him.

"I think it's wonderful," she said. "He said he was going to make his mom and dad proud of him and he certainly did."

Other locals assigned to Stennis, include El Centro residents Nicole Morlette and Oscar Mascareno and Calexico resident Enrique Tirado.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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