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ASU Naval ROTC Officer Candidate wins top scholarship

ASU's John Lillyblad shakes the hand of Retired Lieutenant Commander Bob Baker
November 05, 2013

The USS Little Rock Association Scholarship program was established in 2001 to provide financial assistance to deserving Naval ROTC students. This year, Arizona State University NROTC’s Officer Candidate John Lillyblad is the winner of the top scholarship from the USS Little Rock Association program.

Lillyblad is one of the NROTC unit’s Officer Candidates. The candidates go from the enlisted ranks through an extremely competitive selection for the Seaman to Admiral 21 (STA-21) program where they complete their bachelor’s degree in three years and gain their commission as an officer in the Navy. Prior to earning entrance in the STA-21 program, Lillyblad was advanced to Fire Controlman First Class during his six years of enlisted service, all while earning his associate’s degree in electronics technology with a 4.0 GPA. He is currently pursuing his degree in computer science at ASU and maintaining a 3.99 GPA.

Candidates for this exclusive award are eligible to apply in their third year of college if they have had prior service or are a direct descendant of a Naval service member. Awardees must submit a 500-word letter, have demonstrated superior leadership qualities, aptitude for the service and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.

Lillyblad was grateful to receive this competitive award: “It is great that there are so many veterans willing to give back to the Navy and I felt privileged to be named an honorary member of the association. The certificate of membership is now up on my ‘I love me wall’ with the rest of my Navy mementos. It is a reminder of the generosity and camaraderie of the association. I look forward to one day being on the other side of things and being able to give back to the next up-and-coming student.”

Retired Lieutenant Commander Bob Baker traveled to ASU in Tempe to represent the USS Little Rock Association and present the award. “I am indeed grateful for this singular opportunity to make another scholarship presentation on behalf of our association,” he said. “When you are able to meet with young men and women who are future officers and leaders, you sense in an instant that, although our Navy and Marine Corps have both changed considerably since we served, they nonetheless will be in good hands.”

The history of the United States Naval ship, the USS Little Rock, is extensive. First commissioned as a light cruiser, CL-92, in June of 1945, the ship joined the Fleet, but missed the opportunity to offer support in World War II. She maintained a normal deployment cycle until 1949 when she was placed out of commission.

In 1957, Little Rock entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard as one of six light cruisers to be converted into a guided missile cruiser. There, significant modifications were made to her armament system and lesser changes were made to the communication system, office and living spaces. She was re-commissioned in 1960 as CLG-4, going on to show the U.S. flag in 17 ports in 11 countries until her final decommission in 1976.

The Little Rock’s service to country continues as a museum ship at Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park on the shore of Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY. Alongside the destroyer USS The Sullivans, and the submarine USS Croaker, the USS Little Rock is open to the public for tours. The USS Little Rock is the sole surviving member of the Cleveland class cruisers.

The USS Little Rock Association was founded in 1991 by former servicemen who served aboard the cruiser. The USS Little Rock Association is a not-for-profit corporation and offers men who worked aboard the Little Rock an opportunity to renew old friendships, make new ones and share the stories of their youth and service.

“Officer Candidate Lillyblad winning this prestigious scholarship exemplifies the talent and dedication resident in the Sea Devil Battalion. Go Devils!” said Captain David Price, professor of naval sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Commanding Officer of ASU’s NROTC.

The Naval ROTC unit at Arizona State University was established in 2010 and has grown to be one of the largest in the nation.

Written by Lieutenant Kelsey Ternes