In a recent visit to the Philippines, retired US Navy Captain Dan Gruta was invited by Joel and Tessa Yuvienco, co-owners of Ekindling Inc. (a blended learning company) to conduct a mentorship session with the school children (K- 12) of Filipino seafarers at the San Pancras School at AMOSUP’s Seaman’s Village in Dasmarinas, Cavite.
Capt. Gruta accepted the offer with pleasure because of similar experiences with the children and the close ties developed during his career with Filipino Seafarers. The common culture helped him accomplish his mission. Mentoring was a way to give back.
First, he experienced being in a single-parent home. Second, while at the US Naval Academy, he was assigned by the US Navy to the Philippine Navy on a two-month exchange training tour. Third, during his time at sea, he had encounters with Filipino Seafarers.
As the son of a US Navy man, he grew up in a single parent home in Cavite City, while his father, Chief Aviation Storekeeper Eduardo B. Gruta, was at sea. He saw his father mostly during his short shore leaves when his aircraft carrier would stop at Subic in between its tour in Vietnam. He was thus raised primarily by his mother, Aurora, a Pharmacist.
He entered the US Naval Academy Preparatory School from San Diego in 1981. While at the Naval Academy, he served as a Political Science Intern at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operation’s Politico-Military Directorate, and participated in a foreign exchange cruise with the Philippine Navy. He won a Cox Fund Language Scholarship to Spain and Mexico. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the US Naval Academy, and was commissioned as Ensign in 1986. Dan later earned his Master of Arts from the US Naval War College and an MS in Environmental Management from National University. He completed his MBA in IT Management from Trident University International, graduating Summa Cum Laude.
After attending Basic Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) School, he was assigned to USS FANNING (FF-1076) as Boilers and ASW Division Officer, deploying to the Arabian Gulf, Alaska and South America. He served onboard USS MARVIN SHIELDS (FF-1066) during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He qualified as a SWO and Engineer Officer of the Watch (EOOW).
During his tours, he encountered Filipino Merchant Officers and Seamen both at sea and his ports of call, and developed bonds with them. Tagalog was spoken over bridge to bridge radios. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, one of his ship’s missions was to enforce the United Nations embargo against Iraq and Kuwait ~~ One of his memorable nights was when he was the Officer of the Deck (OOD) on an anchored ship when he saw a large tanker Jupiter coming towards his ship, at constant bearing and decreasing range, an early sign of collision ~~ Lt. Gruta called them on bridge to bridge radio, “Merchant vessel off my starboard bow, this is US Navy Warship at anchor, channel one six please.” Jupiter responded, “This is Jupiter, say again please.” Lt. Gruta responded, “Jupiter, this is US Navy Warship at anchor, request you steer clear my vessel by 3000 yards off my port bow.” Jupiter responded, “This is Jupiter, say again please. Say again.” The vessel was still approaching closer at constant bearing and decreasing range. At this point, Lt. Gruta, decided to switch to Tagalog on the radio, “Psst! Pssst! Hoy, Filipino ka ba? Mababangga mo ako. Lumiko ka sa kanan! Kanan! Iwasan mo ako ng 3,000 yards sa port bow ko.” [“Psst! Psst! Are you Filipino? You are about to run into me. Turn right and avoid me by 3,000 yards off my port bow.”] Jupiter finally responded, “O sige! O sige! Iiwasan kita ng 3000 yards.” [“Ok! I will avoid you by 3,000 yards.”]
He remembers his senior enlisted men, many of whom were married to Filipinas, roaring with laughter as he avoided a collision at sea. For his part, Capt. Gruta relates that he has never seen a big ship turn as fast since then. Ashore, he found Filipino seafarers in Karaoke Bars and Roman Catholic Churches. Unable to find many English speakers alone in the Capt. Dan Gruta Mentors Children of Seafarers by Vicky Viray-Mendoza Capt. Dan Gruta mentoring children of seafarers. Capt. Daniel Gruta, USNA ‘86 ports of Piraeus, Greece, Odessa, and Ukraine, the Filipino seafarers provided him company and information about how to get around town. In Aruba, a merchant seaman at church noted, how much he still has a Caviteno accent despite living in the US for two decades. Ekindling Inc. assigned Capt. Gruta to speak on two topics, hard work and discipline. Capt. Gruta drew from his experiences growing up in a single-parent home, and growing up with humble means in the United States; he explained to the students of San Pancras how they all have the opportunity to become their parent’s “heroes.”
He related that his parents decided to retire in the US after his father’s retirement from the US Navy. Noting that his father’s retirement income was only enough to cover basic expenses, he had to learn to provide for himself by holding two jobs in high school, and take charge of his own destiny by finding an appointment at the US Naval Academy, freeing scarce resources to enable his parents to send his siblings to school. This also provided him a sense of independence.
He left two points to the students. First, “Don’t let your culture control your destination, but rather strive to influence your culture.” In other words, “learn to be independent and think for yourself.” Second, “You may not be able to change a situation or someone else, but you can always change your tactics. Learn to adapt and breakaway from group mentality.”
He shared a gem of wisdom, “The best repayment to your parents is not material possessions, but the duty you show as their sons and daughters in relieving them of burdens.”
Capt. Gruta retired in November 2014. He is now a civilian Navy Civil Service program analyst, working in the Shore and Expeditionary Communications Integration Program Office. He also been working as a defense management consultant for the US Navy since 1998.