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Navy Week sats sail for Tucson to recruit, showcase sailors away from shores

Navy Week sats sail for Tucson to recruit, showcase sailors away from shores

  • The USS Freedom, a littoral combat ship like the USS Gabrielle Giffords, conducting sea trials off the coast of Southern California.
    U.S. NavyThe USS Freedom, a littoral combat ship like the USS Gabrielle Giffords, conducting sea trials off the coast of Southern California.

Sailors are coming to the desert to build up the ranks of the U.S. Navy next week as Tucson hosts Navy Week, the maritime military branch’s flagship recruitment effort that sends sailors to 15 different cities. Tucson has hosted the event three times since 2005, most recently in 2020, and it’ll again take place alongside the Tucson Rodeo.

The week of Feb. 20-28 will see more than 75 sailors visiting Tucson to recruit at high schools and the University of Arizona but also to offer help as volunteers at local locations, including Casa Maria Soup Kitchen, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity Tucson, Ronald McDonald House and the Humane Society. They’ll also be present at the Tucson Rodeo and the parade.

The Navy Band Southwest, a 45-member ceremonial band and one the longest running musical programs in the branch, will be playing for free at venues throughout the week. The band is based in San Diego and has been performing for more than 80 years.

The U.S. Navy is recognizing the Old Pueblo by sending sailors who serve on our city's namesake submarine, the USS Tucson, as well as from the warships USS Gabrielle Giffords and USS John McCain, named after the former politicians.

Former U.S. Sen. John McCain is likely the most notable Arizonan to have ever served in the Navy, with his stint running from 1958–1981. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, flew planes over Vietnam when he was shot down and captured as a POW in 1967 and is now buried in U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery.

One of the visiting sailors will be Tucson native Cmdr. Robert Burke, a graduate of Palo Verde High School and Northern Arizona University who now commands the USS Cincinnati. Burke is “honored” to share his experience in the Navy with his hometown.

“I am filled with gratitude that the leadership skills, work ethic, and resiliency I developed growing up in Tucson have enabled my service,” Burke said in a press release.

The officer who will be leading the trip and serve as the senior executive host for the week is Rear Admiral Brad Rosen, who commands U.S. Navy bases and stations in their Southwest region.

Other groups from the branch that will be participating in events for the week include:

  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One
  • Sailors from the USS Constitution
  • Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command
  • U.S. Ceremonial Guard
  • Navy Reserve Center Tucson
  • Navy Talent Acquisition Group Phoenix
  • Navy Supply Systems Command
  • Navy History and Heritage Command
  • U.S. Naval Academy
  • U.S. America Vietnam War Commemoration
  • Office of Small Business Programs from the Department of the Navy
  • U.S. Fleet Forces Command

A series of Navy Weeks takes place throughout the year, with 15 scheduled for 2023. The program reaches 140 million people each year, according to the Navy Office of Community Outreach.

Tucson is hosting the second Navy Week of 2023, with the first one having finished up on Jan. 29 in Miami, Fla. After Tucson, the Navy will go to Shreveport and Bossier City, La., then places such as St. Louis, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia.

Navy Week launched in 2005 with the intention of sending sailors to recruit and showcase in areas of the country without a significant Navy presence. The weeklong series of events is meant to “bring America's Navy closer to the people it protects” and for “providing the public a firsthand look at why the Navy matters to cities like Tucson.” according to a military press release.

"We are excited to bring the Navy Week program to Tucson," Cmdr. Anthony Falvo, who leads the Navy Office of Community Outreach, wrote in a press release. “Seapower and America’s Navy are more important now than ever before. The U.S. Navy remains our nation’s most powerful instrument of military influence.”

Besides McCain, other notable Arizonans who served in the Navy include current U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, who was also a naval aviator, and famed labor rights activist Cesar Chavez, who was born in Yuma and received an honorable discharge after two years of service as a seaman. Chavez also has a Navy ship named after him.

Bennito L. Kelty is’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.

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