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Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. native serves aboard USS Essex

Navy Ensign Michelle Ehlhardt

Navy Ensign Michelle Ehlhardt

By Lt. Ana Maring, Navy Office of Community Outreach

SAN DIEGO – A 2003 Etiwanda High School graduate and Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native is serving aboard USS Essex (LHD 2), the largest of all amphibious warfare ships and resembles a small aircraft carrier.

Ensign Michelle R. Ehlhardt is a surface warfare officer aboard the San Diego-based WASP-class amphibious assault ship that is nearly as long as 3 football fields at 844 feet. The ship is 106 feet wide and weighs more than 40,650 tons. Two geared steam turbine engines can push the ship through the water at more than 24 mph.

USS Essex (LHD 2) is fifth ship to bear the name Essex. It is named after a town and county in Massachusetts which is significant because of the tie in with the people of Essex County in 1798 and the building of the first USS Essex.

As a 29 year-old with numerous responsibilities, Ehlhardt said she has been in the Navy for 11 years and is prior enlisted. “I joined the Navy because I wanted to travel and have college paid for,” said Ehlhardt. “My brother was already in college and I wanted to give my dad a break.”

She also said she is proud of the work he is doing as part of the Essex’s 1200-member crew, protecting and defending America on the world’s oceans. “With this one ship we can do multiple missions,” said Ehlhardt. “Our role is to take the Marines where they need to go. We have multiple capabilities, including Navy and Marine aircraft. We also have our amphibious capabilities.”

Sailors’ jobs are highly varied aboard USS Essex. Approximately 73 officers, 1109 enlisted men and women make up the ship’s company, which keeps all parts of the ship running smoothly — this includes everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the engines. Another 1800 or so form the Marine Corps Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Essex is capable of transporting the MEU and landing them in hostile territory via landing craft or helicopters.

“USS Essex is truly a fine warship and the crew that mans her is second to none,” said Capt. Peter Mantz, the ship’s commanding officer. “The sailors and Marines of Essex have been working diligently to prepare this warship, and I feel an unparalleled sense of pride working alongside our nation’s finest sailors and Marines.”

The principle mission of Essex is to conduct prompt, sustained operations at sea, primarily as the centerpiece and flagship of the Amphibious Ready Group. Essex provide the means to transport, deploy, command and support all elements of a Marine landing force of over 1,800 troops during an assault by air and amphibious craft.

Designed to be versatile, Essex has the option of simultaneously using helicopters, Harrier jets, and Landing Craft Air Cushioned (LCAC), as well as conventional landing craft and assault vehicles in various combinations. Because of their inherent capabilities, these ships have been and will continue to be called upon to also support humanitarian and other contingency missions on short notice.

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s largest amphibious assault ships, Ehlhardt and other Essex sailors are proud to part of a warfighting team that readily defends America at all times.

“I love the Navy,” said Ehlhardt. “I eventually want to command my own ship, that’s my mission in life. The Navy has been the best decision for me. I’ve traveled to 23 countries on six continents.”

Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation Hosts Lupus Awareness Walk and Fair


SAN BERNARDINO, CA- On Saturday, October 4 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation (YWE) in conjunction with the Southern California Black Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the 1st Community Wellness Event and Lupus Awareness Walk at the Community Medical Center Plaza Parking Lot located at 1800 Medical Center Drive in San Bernardino.

This is a FREE community. The theme for the day is “A Healthy Me” with special guest speaker Diana Wehbe, 99.1 KGGI Radio Personality and author. Other activities of the day include music, vendors, food, raffles, and community fun. There are also a limited number of Omnitrans Day Passes available. Free registration/sign-ups for teams can be completed by emailing ywefoundation@gmail.com.

Hyundai Motor America donates $250,000 to Pediatric Cancer Research at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital

LLUMC Hyundai Check Presentation

Jessie Zuniga making a handprint on Dr. Kimberley Payne. Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels’ annual September campaign is entitled “Every Handprint Tells a Story.”

LOMA LINDA, CA- Kimberley Payne, M.D., associate professor of Loma Linda University School of Medicine and director of translational research at Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital, accepted a $250,000 pediatric cancer research grant from Hyundai Motor America’s “Hope on Wheels” on September 22.

The grant will support Dr. Payne’s work as a “Scholar of Hope,” focusing on leukemia in children. She said her work on behalf of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia is not just important professionally to her, but very personally.  “My brother, Jacob, died at the age of 3 of this disease,” she told a group assembled to see the check presentation. “It’s too late for Jacob, but I hope our work will find new treatments and a cure for this disease.”

Irwin Raphael, general manager of the Western Region of Hyundai Motor America, spoke of the Hope on Wheels campaign, founded by Hyundai 16 years ago. “In that time, Hyundai Motor America has donated $87 million toward pediatric cancer research, all over the nation,” he said.  He added that about 15,000 children are diagnosed with pediatric cancer every year in the United States. “We will win” against this disease, he said. This year’s contributions are being given during the month of September, which is devoted to children’s cancer awareness.

Christopher Alcala, a former patient at Children’s Hospital with leukemia, spoke movingly of his diagnosis as a child, and having to tell his mother himself.  He was referred to Loma Linda, and talked of how the Children’s Hospital became a second home, giving him hope and confidence in his future as he saw his way back to health.  He added that he is ready to begin college, and looking forward to a full life. Another former patient, Kimmie Metcalf, said she and her family were so grateful for the good care she received at Children’s Hospital.

For more information, visit HyundaiHopeOnWheels.org/September.