After a week of community events, school visits at area high schools, as well as volunteering throughout the city, sailors from our United States Navy fleet wrapped up a successful Savannah Navy Week by marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, led by Savannah native the Navy’s senior executive host, Rear Admiral Susan BryerJoyner, Navy Enterprise Networks and Cybersecurity Division Director.
We caught up with Lt. Commander John Kelsey, Public Affairs officer for the Naval Office of Community Outreach, after the parade to see how everything went:
CONNECT: You’ve been in town for Navy Week and now, everything culminates with this amazing parade. What was it like for everyone?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: It was amazing. Doing the parade was amazing, too. This is the first time in Savannah for most of us and it has been an incredible experience. The Navy Band has performed regularly, but it’s been several years since they’ve been back for the parade.
CONNECT: Even though we’re a coastal town, we don’t often get Navy personnel marching in the parade.
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: This is the first time there has been an official Navy Week here in Savannah, as well as a contingent of sailors in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It’s a neat distinction for the members of the USS Alaska and the Navy Command from Kings Bay Naval Base. They’re only a few hours away in St. Mary’s, Georgia, so it had the feeling of a homecoming.
CONNECT: In addition to the parade, what else did sailors participate in around the community for Navy Week?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: We had almost 100 sailors from around the country come here to the Savannah community and do outreach. Many of the sailors and officers spent several days visiting 9 schools throughout Savannah and Chatham County. At night, we worked on a lot of community service projects with the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and the city, as well. This whole week has been about educating the community about the Navy through outreach.
CONNECT: What’s the overall goal of Navy Week?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: The goal is to connect America’s people to America’s Navy. It’s all about increasing awareness, especially since there aren’t many bases nearby and there isn’t a regular Navy presence here like other places. Here in Savannah, you have Hunter and Fort Stewart, and folks have an awareness of Parris Island and the Marine training going on there. However, your taxpayer’s dollars fund the United States Navy and you have the right to know what we’re doing with that money. Part of how we do that is through reaching out to the community and explaining our jobs, how we help with national security, and why we’re important to national security. Like I said, if you’re not on the coast, you might not always think about the Navy’s involvement in national security. We protect the seas.
CONNECT: What are some memories you’ll take home with you from your Savannah visit?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: We hope through this increased awareness of what the Navy does, we can build a connection to people. We love talking to people and representing our country. The city is so open and welcoming. There is something to say about southern charm. Even though we met a lot of locals who are new residents, there’s just something about this city that welcomes you with open arms. We’ve been excited to be here and be part of such traditions and legacy, like the Jasper Green Ceremony. It’s just been a fantastic week.
CONNECT: How did the Rear Admiral, a Savannah native, enjoy her visit home and riding in the parade?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: Oh, my gosh, she loved it. This is the first time she’s been able to come home to Savannah in a very long time. To come back home and to visit her high school—well not the very same one because it’s been rebuilt—but to see the facilities and visit the classrooms. It was very impressive. The city and school district have done a great job incorporating the history of the school into the new building. The Rear Admiral felt so welcomed and she couldn’t have asked for a more perfect homecoming.
CONNECT: We often live in stressful times, but it seems a bit more so today with all that is going on in the world and the conflicts arising. Can you speak to the Navy’s role in times like these?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: Well, the Navy is always prepared to act when our nation calls. That is why we are so important to national security. Again, with our training and readiness aspect… we’re always ready to respond. America depends on the Navy for a reason because we can deploy immediately and go anywhere. Our aircraft carriers are mobile airports. We don’t need land to do our jobs. We certainly can’t predict the future, but whatever comes, we’ll be ready for it.
CONNECT: What will you take away with you from Savannah?
Lt. Cmdr. Kelsey: (laughing a bit) I want to take away the weather. Seriously though, I think I knew Savannah was a military-friendly town, as well as a nice and hospitable one, but I’ve been overly surprised with how truly welcoming it is. People have been extremely genuine and nice. The experience of meeting people, going to the schools, speaking to students, and being able to help out the community with these volunteer opportunities… it all goes back to why we came to town and that to create awareness of who we are, why we matter, but also to be good partners and good guests because you’ve welcomed us to your city.
To learn more about the United States Navy, visit navy.mil