USS LASSEN CHANGE OF COMMAND HIGHLIGHT S ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTHUS NAVY | Monday May 25, 2009
USS Lassen Change of Command
Highlights Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Story by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Charles Oki,
Navy Public Affairs Support Element West Det. Japan
YOKOSUKA, Japan – In 1975, as a young boy, Cmdr. H.B. Le and his family fled South Vietnam during the fall of Saigon, following the end of the Vietnam War. Almost three-and-one-half decades later; he assumed command of the forward deployed Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82).
Le, a Vietnamese-American, took command of Lassen April 23, a week before the start of Asian/Pacific Heritage Month, which celebrates diversity within the United States. As part of that celebration, the Navy honors its many service members of Asian and Pacific Island descent.
According to Navy Personnel Command, the Navy harvests and represents the strength of the Nation's diversity.
For Le, the diverse backgrounds of the Sailors in the Navy are directly influenced by the ethnic diversity that is found in the United States.
“I'm truly proud to be in the Navy and I think diversity makes the Navy stronger,” said Le. “I'm glad to be able to work alongside professionals in the Navy, regardless of where they are from; their race, ethnic origin, background or religious affiliation.”
“They’re fine examples of what Americans are and can be,” added Le.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, approximately 1 million immigrants successfully applied for citizenship in the U.S. in 2007.
Le feels that the diverse background of the United States is a great opportunity to find dedicated professionals to help the Navy grow as an organization.
“In order for the Navy to be strong, it needs to recruit from the best in America regardless of background,” said Le. “We still need to be able to tap into those people because there is some hidden talent there.”
Le was born in Hue, Vietnam and arrived onto U.S. sovereign territory when he and members of his family stepped aboard USS Barbour County (LST 1195) on May 2, 1975 during the fall of South Vietnam. The Le family officially immigrated to the United States in June 1975. He became a U.S. citizen on April 30, 1985, exactly 10 years after the fall of Saigon.
Le’s father was a commander in the Republic of Vietnam navy before and during the Vietnam War, which helped influence Le’s decision to pursue a commission in the Navy of his new country.
“My father, he’s my hero,” said Le. “He was a South Vietnamese navy commander and his career was cut short because of the war, so I wanted to follow in his footsteps as an officer.”
Le received his commission after graduating with merit from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1992, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.
Le said his sense of patriotism to the country that welcomed him and his family also influenced his decision to join the Navy.
“I wanted to give back to the United States and give service to my country,” he said. “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the United States.”
Le feels that his success, especially this milestone in his career, can be attributed to his family and fellow Sailors who have led him along the way.
“Certainly I've got my family to thank for their love and support,” said Le. “Also, I've got to thank all the leaders and Sailors with whom I've worked through my 17 years, without them I wouldn’t be here.”
Cmdr. Le has served on the USS Ticonderoga (CG 47), USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Hue City (CG 66) and USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54). He also spent time with Requirements, Policy, and Experimentation (N8/9) directorate at U.S. Second Fleet and the Joint Training (J-7) directorate at U.S. Joint Forces Command.
He also earned a Master of Science degree in Operations Research (with distinction) from the Naval Postgraduate School and a Master of Business Administration degree (summa cum laude) from Touro University International. He is also a graduate of the Naval War College Nonresident Seminar Program and the Joint Forces Staff College.
YOKOSUKA, Japan (April 23, 2009) - Cmdr. H.B. Le, right, and Cmdr. Anthony Simmons render salutes at USS Lassen’s (DDG 82) change of command ceremony where Simmons turned over the reigns of the Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer to Le.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Charles Oki