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Press Release | April 21, 2024

Roots of Resilience: The Chamorro spirit of Chief Petty Officer Luis Jose Reyes Blas

U.S. Coast Guard Forces Micronesia/Sector Guam

In the vast expanse of the Pacific, where the horizon seems to stretch infinitely, blending sea and sky, Chief Petty Officer Luis Jose Reyes Blas charts a profoundly personal and universally inspiring course. 

His recent advancement to chief petty officer on March 26, 2024, is a personal milestone and a continuation of a revered family legacy. Both his grandfather and great-grandfather served as chiefs in the U.S. Navy. Yet Luis's story is distinctly his own, woven from the rich cultural fabric of his Chamorro heritage, a point of pride, especially during Chamorro Heritage Month.

Luis, born on Saipan and raised on Guam, speaks with a passion that echoes his deep ties to his roots. "We are probably among the people proudest of where we come from," he says, reflecting a profound connection to the Chamorro culture, where family and community take precedence. This ethos has guided Luis throughout more than 15 years with the U.S. Coast Guard. Initially at MAT/WAT Guam, this tour, where he played a crucial role in ensuring the readiness of three fast response cutters, he is currently stationed aboard USCGC Myrtle Hazard (WPC 1139) on the engineering team. 

Luis's love for the sea and dedication to duty are palpable. "Being a cutterman, you build a camaraderie like no other," he explains, highlighting the unique bond formed amidst the trials and triumphs of life at sea. With many years spent aboard U.S. Coast Guard cutters, including the USCGC Sherman (WHEC 720) and USCGC Munro (WMSL 725), USCGC Myrtle Hazard, and USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC 1140), he has traversed the Pacific from the North Slope of Alaska south to Queensland, Australia. He was also aboard Munro for their inaugural operational patrol in 2018 and present for a rededication ceremony at a memorial to the cutter's namesake, Signalman 1st Class Douglas Munro, who gave his life during the Guadalcanal Campaign during World War II in Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands.

In the fall of 2022, he supplemented the USCGC Oliver Henry crew on their first expeditionary patrol, which took them over 8,000 miles south to Australia and back over 43 days, working with Pacific partners. His tenure aboard the Oliver Henry was marked by technical expertise and leadership. He significantly impacted the crew's operations positively through meticulous maintenance efforts and a wealth of knowledge shared with his shipmates. It also laid the groundwork for increased collaboration with colleagues in Papua New Guinea. 

His three most memorable moments include community relations with the people of Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where they hosted the crew and shared a sports day with students from HMPNGS Tarangau School. The second was in Australia. 

"The whole time we were there, we were trying to catch this fish called a Barramundi. The only one to catch this fish was EM1 Ikaika Ruiz. It was the last night we were there, around 2200, and he brought in the fish. Everyone was so excited even though we didn't catch it personally," said Luis.

And the final standout memory was the crew's visit to the ancient stone ruins of Nan Madol in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia. Nan Madol was the ceremonial and political seat of the Saudeleur Dynasty, which united Pohnpei's estimated population of 25,000 people until about 1628. Set apart between the main island of Pohnpei and Temwen Island, it is famous for its megalithic architecture and tidally influenced canals. According to Pohnpeian legend, twin sorcerers Olisihpa and Olosohpa from the mythical Western Katau, or Kanamwayso, constructed Nan Modal. It is a very revered and spiritual place covering about seven square miles. 

"The day started with a visit to my wife's family island just off Pohnpei to go fishing. A group of us then took a boat ride to the ruins. Words cannot describe that day, and I was glad everyone could enjoy and experience it," said Luis.

Beyond his professional achievements, Luis is known for his vibrant spirit and hobbies, which connect him to his crew and culture. An avid music lover, Luis finds joy and solace in melodies, rhythms, and beats that transcend language and borders. His musical tastes are as diverse as the islands he calls home, creating a bridge between his heritage and his experiences around the world.

Luis's competitive spirit shines through in his prowess as a fisherman and in Super Smash Bros., where he can "throw down with the best of them." This playful side fosters camaraderie and light-hearted moments amidst the demanding pace of military life. 

"My philosophy for being underway is to make the best of it and laugh as much as possible or make others laugh to ensure the time spent underway is joyful," Luis shares, embodying a leadership style that values high spirits and positive outlooks as much as it does excellence and dedication. Outside of work, you can find him at the beach, fishing, swimming, or "as we say on Guam, hanging out." Most of all, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children. 

Reflecting on his leadership, Luis quotes Peter Drucker: "Leadership is not making friends and influencing people - that's flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to high sights, raising their performance to a higher standard, and building a personality beyond its normal limitations." This philosophy, combined with his Chamorro values, shapes how he approaches his role within the Coast Guard, striving to elevate those around him while remaining grounded in the principles of family and community.

That leadership was on display in his time aboard Myrtle Hazard. Their expeditionary patrol in the fall of 2023 was a monumental 46-day, 7,484 nautical-mile journey that enhanced Pacific maritime security and facilitated international partnerships. His expertise ensured Myrtle Hazard remained a potent force for good, safeguarding maritime domains and engaging in vital community support and disaster response activities. 

From delivering critical donations in the aftermath of Typhoon Bolaven to executing successful search and rescue operations, Luis's contributions were pivotal. His commitment to excellence and his ability to inspire his team underscores the profound impact of his service, echoing the enduring spirit of cooperation and resilience that defines the U.S. Coast Guard's mission across the Pacific and beyond.

As Luis prepares for his upcoming assignment going back to MAT/WAT Guam, his journey remains a testament to the power of heritage, leadership, and unwavering commitment to service. Chief Petty Officer Luis Jose Reyes Blas stands as a beacon of pride for the Mariana Islands, a guardian of the seas, and a champion of the values that define the very essence of the U.S. Coast Guard.