3 ✪ COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT Q: Where did you grow up? A: I grew up in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx in New York City. I spent two years at Aviation High School before transferring to Herbert H. Lehman High School in my neighborhood. I played football my Senior year with current Jacksonville Jaguars coach, Doug Marrone. After graduating, I attended Southern Connecticut State University for one year. Q: What sports or hobbies did you have? A: I am an avid New York sports fan and have been a subscriber to Sports Illustrated for over 30 years. I love to bicycle ride and love to work around the house on my landscaping. Q: What made you decide to join the Navy? What was your military job? A: I joined the Navy in 1987 after watching the movie Top Gun. I knew I couldn’t be a pilot, but I was extremely impressed with the scenes of work- ing on the flight deck. After talking with my Mom, I walked into the Recruiting Office at 23 years old, where the recruiter introduced me to Submarine Duty. I joined the Navy as a Navigation Electronics Technician in submarines and reported to USS Hammerhead (SSN-663) in 1988. One of the biggest thrills of my life was walking into that same Recruit- ing Station 27 years later as the Command Master Chief of the Recruiting District. Q: What was your favorite duty station? A: My favorite Duty Station was Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Hawaii is the most beautiful place on earth. I cherish the five years that I spent there particularly with the beautiful Hawaiian people. I was stationed on USS Santa Fe (SSN-763) as the Chief of the Boat (Top Senior Enlisted Leader). Being a part of the command element on a Naval vessel is the biggest honor and privilege that you can attain in service. Also, while I was the COB on Santa Fe, we surfaced at the North Pole in July of 2006. It was an incredible experience breaking through 5 feet of ice. Q: What were your favorite military experiences? A: I have been blessed to have had a ton of incred- ible experiences in service. One in particular was as the Command Master Chief of USS New York Interviewed by Wil Acosta CMDCM (SW/SS) RAFAEL PEREZ (LPD-21). A ship that was built from steel of the World Trade Center and riding up the Hudson River toward the city for Fleet Week. I was literally in tears because I was so proud of my ship and of my city. Q: Where were you on September 11th, 2001? I was a Senior Chief Petty Officer that had just trans- ferred from USS Newport News (SSN-750) in Nor- folk, Virginia to Submarine Group Seven in Yokosuka, Japan. I was in the Navy Lodge with my family, as we were searching for housing, when I was awakened by my sponsor at 11:00PM Japanese Standard Time after the first plane had hit. I re- member being down on that street about two weeks prior while on transfer leave with my chil- dren showing them the World Trade Center. Years of Service… Represent Lifetime Rewards Master Chief Perez is highly decorated after his three decades of naval service. He is entitled to wear the Meritorious Service Medal (four awards), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three awards), the Navy Achievement Medal (six awards), as well as various other awards and cita- tions. Despite all of his achievements and fanfare, Perez remains remarkably humble when describing his military services. “My career was filled with good people and great experiences,” Perez said. “It was an honor to serve.” During his interview, MC Perez recounted his many years of service with pride and honor. It’s easy to see why this retired Master Chief achieved so much during his career. He worked hard, stayed humble, and he never forgot the love he had for his family and his hometown. Instead of old seas stories, Perez spent most of the time we in- terviewed him talking about his loved ones. If you’re fortunate enough to ever meet him, his children, his wife, and his rescue dog are usually the topics of conversation. But, feel free to ask him about his Yan- kees too. As they say, “You can take the Bomber out of the Bronx, but the pin stripes remain.” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Navy_Command_Master_Chief_Rafael_Pere z_attends_a_911_remembrance_ceremony_aboard_the_amphibious_transport_dock_ship_ USS_New_York_(LPD_21)_Sept_120911-N-NN926-129.jpg http://www.dolphin-news.com/news/a-bittersweet-farewell-for-submarine-group-s-command- master-chief/article_16b10262-2209-5f4a-ad8c-33a512052f3f.html Photo: MC1 Virginia K. Schaefer GROTON, CT. Who says you can’t come home? This month’s US Family Health Plan member spotlight is about a native New Yorker, who traveled the globe while serving, only to return home to head the very recruiting district that enlisted him as a young recruit. During his three decades in the Navy, Perez seemed to have served in every clime and place from the artic, to the tropics. He was stationed in foreign lands, on ships that sailed the ocean, and on subs that dove deep below the sea. But, there’s no place like home. Master Chief Perez returned to his hometown October of 2013 to serve as the Command Master Chief of Navy Recruiting District New York. Poetically, Perez’ military career ended right where it had started. His watch ended when he retired after 30 years of faithful service on December 2016. As a retired Navy Master Chief with 30 brilliant years of service, Rafael Perez is definite proof that you can always come home as long as you never forget who you are, or where you’ve been. When asked if he would allow us to interview him about his life pre, post and during his military career Master Chief Perez responded; “I’d be honored”. Photos from top to bottom: • Picture marquee @ Yankee Stadium featuring CMDCM R. Perez. • CMDCM Rafael Perez being honored at Yankee Stadium • Rear Admiral Michael E. McLaughlin, Commander, Submarine Group 2, awards CMDCM(SS) Raphael Perez, Command Master Chief, Submarine Group 2, with his end of tour award, a Meritorious Service Medal. • The Commanding Officer in the middle Captain Steve Perry, and on the left is the Executive Officer Captain Matt Terwilliger and CMDCM Rafael Perez with USS Santa Fe SSN-763 in the background at the North Pole.