News: 1st Marine Division Sailors celebrate 237th Navy birthday with hike, cake cutting ceremony
Story by Sgt. Jacob Harrer
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Sailors celebrated the U.S. Navy’s 237th birthday caked in dust and sweat, trekking up and down Camp Pendleton’s hills.
More than 160 sailors serving with 1st Marine Division went on a seven-mile hike and later held a traditional Navy birthday cake cutting ceremony here, Oct. 12.
The events commemorated the birthday of the U.S. Navy, Oct. 13, 1775.
The hike route took sailors on a gradual upward slope to a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean on one side and Camp Pendleton on the other. The sailors paused for some words of inspiration from Master Chief Petty Officer Robert B. Banuelos, the 1st Marine Division command master chief petty officer.
Banuelos, a native of Stockton, Calif., commended the sailors for their outstanding service alongside Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, and encouraged them to have pride in and their service on the Navy’s birthday.
After completing the hike, the sailors returned to the Camp Margarita parade deck and held a cake cutting ceremony. Sailors read birthday messages from the Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant of the Marines Corps, and the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy. They presented the first slice of the birthday cake as a symbol of experience to the oldest sailor present, Cmdr. Edward S. Pease, the 1st Marine Division chaplain.
Pease, a 57-year-old native of Atlanta, presented the second piece of cake as a passing of knowledge to the youngest sailor present, Seaman Cory Manka, a student at the Combat Trauma Management course at the 1st Marine Division Surgeon’s Office, and a 19-year-old native of East Hampton, Conn.
Organizers planned the hike and ceremony to impart Navy pride upon the sailors of the division, who spend much of their time as the only sailors in their units, said Chief Petty Officer Patrick K. McCormick, the senior enlisted leader with the religious ministry team, 1st Marine Division Chaplain’s Office.
Most of the sailors are accustomed to rigorous training with Marines throughout the division, where they serve as support personnel for combat units.
Sailors assigned to Marine units undergo extensive field training at Camp Pendleton or Camp Lejeune to integrate them into the Fleet Marine Forces, said Petty Officer 2nd Class Juan Manuel Rodriguez Jr., the lead petty officer with the religious ministry team.
The training involves many of the tasks expected of Marines, including the physical fitness test, combat fitness test, conditioning hikes, and proper field security and hygiene, said Rodriguez, a native of Houston. Sailors also receive instruction on the Marine Corps as an organization, including command structure and ranks.
McCormick, a resident of Temecula, Calif., said being surrounded by Marines makes it easy for Fleet Marine Force sailors to forget their naval heritage.
“We’re so engrained with what goes on in the world of the United States Marine Corps that sometimes we do lose our identity,” McCormick said. “My goal is for that to never happen.”
McCormick said service in the Fleet Marine Forces is usually the high point in a sailor’s career, but that shouldn’t overshadow a sailor’s naval identity. The hike and cake cutting brought both elements together as it had never been done before for sailors in 1st MarDiv.
“I’m very proud to serve with the Marine Corps, and I’m exceedingly proud to be a sailor,” McCormick said. “For me, I’m a sailor first. Every time the birthday comes around, it reminds me of why it’s so great to be a sailor. To be able to serve on both sides … I would never change a thing.”
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