BERKELEY – Thousands of Sailors and Marines serving with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group returned home this week and one of them got a royal homecoming reception by his family.
Township resident Jimmy Sirotniak, 23, a member of the U.S. Navy was deployed the week before Christmas and since that time has served on the USS Arlington, which was assigned to patrol the area to show a U.S. presence during the continued tensions in that area involving Iran.
Sirotniak joined the Navy a little over three years ago and holds the rank of operations specialist 2nd Class.
“I went out to sea around December and was there until mid-July,” Sirotniak said. He had shifts of eight hours on and eight hours off. Some of his duties included tracking aircraft and watching radar. “It’s not too bad, first eight hours is for sleeping and then you do maintenance and play some video games.”
His family welcomed him home Aug. 4 with the special gathering that had been planned. In attendance was Sirotniak’s aunt, Lisa Fobian, his mother and stepfather, brother and sister.
“It is nice to be back home. They get you ready for your return through an integration program. I’m not married and I don’t have any kids so I integrated back very well,” Sirotniak said.
The sailor added that the ship traveled through areas off the Mediterranean. “We sat off the coast of Libya and traveled through five different countries. We pulled into Spain twice, Cicely, Malta and Tunisia which is in north Africa. Boy those seas were rough. You are right out in open water but we overcame it,” Sirotniak said.
“I signed up for the early bird program and got leave with some of the Marines and other amphibious guys when we reached Northfolk, Virginia. We had to stand duty in order to do that. We pulled in on July 15 and I got a hotel. My mom, stepdad and sister were the first people I saw.”
He later met up with his father and brother who is one year his junior when he got back to New Jersey.
As to the big party that his family planned it wasn’t a total surprise but it did feature some surprises.
The sounds of sirens were heard around 2 p.m. during the afternoon of the party but fortunately, there was no emergency. The Bayville Fire Company and Berkeley Township Police had joined Township Mayor Carmen Amato in surprising the sailor.
“I had an idea of there being a party in the works but I never thought the mayor would be coming with the whole fire department,” Sirotniak said.
Sirotniak said a large group photo was taken. “I enjoyed talking with members of the fire department about firefighting because in the Navy we are all trained how to be fire fighters.”
“I had met the mayor before when I was on the Bayville First Aid Squad and we respond to a crash near his office. He’s a great guy,” Sirotniak said.
“We had from 200-300 people there. It was held at my step dad and mom’s house which has a little pool and yard. It was catered by Surf Taco,” Sirotniak said.
He noted that there is quite a difference between tacos onboard the ship and those of Surf Taco.
“The ones on the ship have you running to the head (bathroom),” Sirotniak joked.
“I used to go to Surf Taco a lot when I was younger. I lived in Lacey until I was 13 and we moved to Bayville. I’ve lived in Ocean County all my life. It’s not a bad place to live,” Sirotniak said.
“I’ll be leaving Jersey on Aug. 12. I’ll be moving into an apartment in Virginia Beach so I have to go back a few days early before reporting back to duty on Aug. 15,” the sailor said.
“I’ll be doing normal import duty there which is a 9 to 5 type of job,” Sirotniak said. “It can get pretty hot though when you are on deck and wearing a uniform. And in the winter, Norfolk can be pretty cold as you are right on the water on a ship next to a pier. The wind sometimes feels like it will cut right through you. That’s when you have a hot chocolate or two.”
The sailor plans to savor his time in Ocean County until his departure and part of that plan involved joining his brother to see the band Papa Roach at the Stone Pony.
*Editors Note: In our print edition of The Berkeley Times, photos were incorrectly credited to the Sirotniak family. They were actually taken by Heidi Lotter, who helped arrange the event.*