YOKOSUKA, JAPAN — January 22, 2009 — USS The Sullivans, an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer, is on an eight-month "Flying the Colors" and goodwill cruise and display of strength mission. Both The Sullivans School and USS The Sullivans are named for the five Sullivan brothers who lost their lives when their ship, the USS Juneau, went down with all hands during World War II. The Sullivan brothers were "common men who made an uncommon sacrifice," according to Kelly Sullivan Loughren, granddaughter of one of the brothers. Mrs. Loughren, the sponsor of the ship, visited the Sullivans school on a PTO-sponsored trip in 2007.
With only a few days' notice of the ship's arrival, The Sullivans School leadership worked closely with ENS Carl Comasco, USS The Sullivans Public Affairs Officer, to integrate the Sullivans crew into school life. True to form, the sailors quickly adapted from life on the ship to life in the classroom. More than one hundred sailors mustered each morning in the Sullivans lobby to be chosen by eager students as their "class sailor" for the day, similar to a Big Brother/Big Sister partnership.
Sailors assisted with a variety of classroom activities. The Sullivans Information Center offered a selection of favorite books to sailors if to read to students. The school's Foreign Language in the Elementary School (FLES) Program and Spanish Immersion Classrooms challenged sailors to brush up on their Spanish skills and co-teach sessions or share their cultural memories with students. Sailors were also asked to share their expertise in Art, Music, Physical Education, and Host Nation classrooms.
In addition to stepping up to duty in the classroom sailors also participated in all aspects of Sullivans school life, including helping out in the office. Botswain's Mate Michael Duran blew the special navy pipe each morning over the intercom to set the naval mood. Cdr. Ryan Tillotson, USS The Sullivans Commanding Officer, made a daily guest appearance on "SSN," the Sullivans' daily morning news program, to greet students and to share the history of the Sullivans. He also spoke to the faculty at a staff meeting.
The sailors hosted their schoolmates, offering tours of USS The Sullivans to selected classes and the faculty. The week's events culminated in a "FOD (Foreign Object Damage) Walkdown," on the school's playground when over 400 fourth and fifth graders were joined by 100 USS The Sullivans sailors in collecting rocks for disposal. This activity was followed by an ESWS (Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist) pinning for two USS The Sullivans sailors.
Walt Wilhoit, The Sullivans School Principal, commented on the impact of the sailors' visit.
"USS The Sullivans sailors turned an ordinary school week into an extraordinary one for our school and students which will be remembered for a lifetime," he said.
Teachers and students echoed this sentiment throughout the four days that the sailors visited the school. Students, teachers and sailors all agreed that the Sullivan brothers' motto, "We stick together," will definitely apply to The Sullivans School and USS The Sullivans, as the two organizations explore ways to continue their new friendship.