iSociety: Rochelle Rose

The Santa Barbara Navy League hosts great mixers and the July 25 event was no exception. Nearly 100 guests and supporters savored the late afternoon harbor cruise on the Channel Cat while imbibing Consilience Wine and cocktails from the Cat bar.

The weather was spectacular, and a great mix of Navy personnel, Navy League members and guests enjoyed each other’s company for the two-hour cruise and program. Board member and mixer organizer Lynn Beherens handled the healthy hors d’oeuvres, as well as the colorful centerpieces.

“They are all red, white and blue!” she exclaimed.

Channel Cat Ship’s Officer Michael J. Anderson, along with officers Kyle Varga and Cliff Albritton, greeted guests and then maneuvered the 85-foot luxury catamaran through the calm harbor and coastline waters. They were in good company as Navy Cmdr. Kumar Atarthi, commanding officer of Carrier Airborne Command and Control 113 at Naval Base Ventura County, was also on board.

Atarthi was accompanied by crew members Billy Markham of Riverside; Chris Hope of Mesa, Ariz.; Andrew Schwallenberg of Baltimore, Md.; and Nicole Vandemark of New York. These fresh-faced sailors work so far from home to protect our country on the world’s oceans, and the Navy League was there to thank and support them for their service.

A Hawkeye pilot based at Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Atarthi joined the Navy in 1987 and became an officer in 1994. He has flown combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and assumed command of the “Black Eagles” in March. His personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Strike/Flight Air Medal (four awards), Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three awards), and Navy & Marine Corps Achievement Medal (four awards). He has more than 2,000 hours in the E-2C Hawkeye and more than 500 arrested carrier landings.

During a short program interval toward the end of the cruise, Atarthi described the Navy’s humanitarian work on the island of Honshu, Japan, after the earthquake and tsunami in December 2010.

“Our ship happened to be nearby the island when the earthquakes hit,” he said. “33,000 people were isolated on this island. They had no roads, no power and dwindling supplies. We helicoptered in 3 million pounds of food, medicine, water, blankets and necessities to a grateful nation.

“The Japanese were very organized; they wrote down detailed list exactly what they needed in each isolated town,” he added. “We were communicating from the U.S. helicopters to Navy aircraft to the carrier in ocean. As the orders came in, sailors were packing up what they needed from what was on board the ship. Then the helicopters picked up the packet and dropped it in the appropriate village. There were no phone or ground communications, so it was all done between the U.S. military.

“The pilots were in awe; the Japanese people were so grateful for what the Americans were doing. This will not be forgotten.”

Santa Barbara Navy League president Patricia Westberg said that she got involved in the Navy League nine years ago when her husband was on active duty in Ventura.

“This is a great way to say thank you for the service of the military who keep our country safe,” she said. “I credit the league’s past presidents, Karen Crawford, Lin Graf and Connie Los, for paving the way. My goal is to support our mission and put the troops first.”

Westberg listed for guests the many adopted vessels and projects that the Santa Barbara Navy League has adopted. Among them:

» USS Ronald Reagan, San Diego

» USS Stockdale, San Diego

» Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, Port Hueneme

» Airborne Early Warning Squadron 113, Point Mugu

» Naval Base Ventura County, San Nicolas Island

» U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, AIRPAC Squadron

» U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Blackfin, Santa Barbara

» U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment, Santa Barbara

» Air Force 30th Operations Group at Vandenberg Air Force Base

» USS California (SSN 781)

» U.S. Marine Corps 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Division: “Darkhorse”

» UCSB Army ROTC Surfrider Battalion

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara Navy League, or call 805.879.1775. Click here to make an online donation to the Navy League. Connect with the Santa Barbara Navy League on Facebook.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews, @NoozhawkBiz and @NoozhawkSociety. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook and Noozhawk on Pinterest.