NAS LEMOORE — After six months, 10 members of the Naval Air Station Lemoore-based squadron the VFA-146 Blue Diamonds returned home Monday from Pacific deployment aboard USS Nimitz, just in time for the holidays.
“It feels a bit crazy. I feel like I have been waiting for this day forever and it doesn’t quite feel real yet,” said Elizabeth Mason, who was waiting for her husband, Lt. Joe Mason of the British Navy. “Until he’s here I’m not sure I’m going to believe it.”
“I recognized her,” Joe Mason said of his waiting wife after landing. “I waved at her from the cockpit. I wanted to get the awkward hello out of the way and just get back to being together again.”
“It wasn’t awkward for me, I was just crying,” Elizabeth Mason said.
The couple, who have been married for nearly four years, were reunited with a long kiss and embrace with no mind to the cold wind that whipped about Monday.
In fact, the cold seemed to be the last thing on anyone’s mind as wives, kids and family members patiently and excitedly waited for the Blue Diamonds to land.
The Shulman family, including mom, Tasha, and children Madison, 11, and Savannah, 7, held signs as they waited for Commanding Officer Andy Shulman to arrive back from his sixth deployment.
Andy Shulman said he recognized his family right away and felt “a wave of relief” when he finally parked.
“It feels incredible to be back,” Andy Shulman said. “It’s good to finally be back home and nice to make it back before Christmas-time.”
Tasha Shulman said it felt amazing to have her husband back and was thankful for the other spouses, who she said rallied together and supported each other through the last six months.
“It takes a village to get through deployment and we have a great one,” Tasha Shulman said. “That made it a lot easier, but I am actually so glad and relieved now that this day is here.”
Though Andy Shulman said his job is rewarding, he said it never gets easier to leave his family for a long period of time.
“It’s really exciting to be back and see how much the kids have grown,” Andy Shulman said. “It’s incredible.”
Tasha Shulman said Madison and Savannah had been through three other deployments, but this was the first one that they were old enough to really remember. She said the children were strong and resilient the entire time their father was away.
“They knew that their daddy was doing an important job so they waited patiently, but they could not be more happy to have him home,” Tasha Shulman said.
After the holidays, the Shulman family has plans for a well-deserved vacation.
The VFA-147 Argonauts and VFA-154 Black Knights were also deployed with the Blue Diamonds as part of Carrier Air Wing 11 aboard USS Nimitz. Members of the Argonauts and Black Nights also returned home on Monday.
During the deployment, the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) operated with Australian, British, French, Indian, Japanese, New Zealand and Republic of Korea navies to promote security, stability and prosperity.
Nimitz CSG participated in a three-carrier strike force exercise in the Western Pacific, Nov. 11-14. While at sea, Nimitz conducted air defense drills, sea surveillance, replenishments at sea, defensive air combat training, close-in coordinated maneuvers and other training.
The coordinated operations in international waters demonstrated the Navy’s capability to operate multiple carrier strike groups as a coordinated strike force effort.
This was the first time three carrier strike groups operated together in the Western Pacific since exercises Valiant Shield 2006 and 2007 off the coast of Guam. The exercise focused on the ability to rapidly bring together forces from three strike groups in response to any regional situation.
“The crew was a lot of fun,” Joe Mason said. “We did some good work out there.”
SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump on Monday took the rare step of scaling back two sprawling national monuments in Utah, declaring that "public lands will once again be for public use" in a move cheered by Republican leaders who lobbied him to undo protections they considered overly broad.
The decision marks the first time in a half century that a president has undone these types of land protections. Tribal and environmental groups oppose the decision and began filing lawsuits Monday in a bid to stop Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Trump made the plan official during a speech at the State Capitol, where he signed proclamations to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Both monuments encompass millions of acres of land.
State officials said the protections were overly broad and closed off the area to energy development and other access.
Environmental and tribal groups say the designations are needed to protect important archaeological and cultural resources, especially the more than 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears site featuring thousands of Native American artifacts, including ancient cliff dwellings and petroglyphs.
Trump argued that the people of Utah know best how to care for their land.
"Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington," Trump said. "And guess what? They're wrong."
Roughly 3,000 demonstrators lined up near the State Capitol to protest Trump's announcement. Some held signs that said, "Keep your tiny hands off our public lands," and they chanted, "Lock him up!" A smaller group gathered in support, including some who said they favor potential drilling or mining there that could create jobs. Bears Ears has no oil or gas, Zinke told reporters, although Grand Staircase-Escalante has coal.
"Your timeless bond with the outdoors should not be replaced with the whims of regulators thousands and thousands of miles away," Trump said. "I've come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to your citizens."
Bears Ears, created last December by President Barack Obama, will be reduced by about 85 percent, to 201,876 acres.
Grand Staircase-Escalante, designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton, will be reduced from nearly 1.9 million acres to 1,003,863 acres.
Both were among a group of 27 monuments that Trump ordered Zinke to review this year.
Zinke accompanied Trump aboard Air Force One, as did Utah's Republican U.S. senators, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee. Hatch and other Utah Republican leaders pushed Trump to launch the review, saying the monuments designated by the former Democratic presidents locked up too much federal land.
Trump framed the decision as returning power to the state, saying, "You know and love this land the best and you know the best how to take care of your land." He said the decision would "give back your voice."
"Public lands will once again be for public use," Trump said to cheers.
Hatch, who introduced Trump, said that when "you talk, this president listens" and that Trump promised to help him with "federal overreach."
Earthjustice filed the first of several expected lawsuits Monday, calling the reduction of Grand Staircase-Escalante an abuse of the president's power that jeopardizes a "Dinosaur Shangri-la" full of fossils. Some of the dinosaur fossils sit on a plateau that is home to one of the country's largest known coal reserves, which could now be open to mining. The organization is representing eight conservation groups.
Native American leaders said they expect to file a lawsuit challenging the Bears Ears decision soon.
Patagonia President and CEO Rose Marcario said the outdoor-apparel company will join an expected court fight against the monument reduction, which she described as the "largest elimination of protected land in American history."
No president has tried to eliminate a monument, but some have reduced or redrawn the boundaries on 18 occasions, according to the National Park Service. The most recent instance came in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy slightly downsized Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.
Trump's move against Bears Ears, covering lands considered sacred to tribes that long pushed for protections, marks his latest affront to Native Americans.
Trump overrode tribal objections to approve the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. He also used a White House event honoring Navajo Code Talkers to take a political jab at Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat he has nicknamed "Pocahontas" for her claim to have Native American heritage.
"One week ago today, our Code Talkers were disrespected. And one week later, we get this," said Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez, referring to the monuments.
Trump signed an executive order in April directing Zinke to review the protections, which Trump is able to upend under the 1906 Antiquities Act. The law gives presidents broad authority to declare federal lands as monuments and restrict their use.
HANFORD — Law enforcement officials are looking for a male who robbed a gas station on Sunday and left with an undetermined amount of money.
At about 9:40 p.m., Hanford Police officers said they were called to the Chevron gas station at 12th Avenue and Hanford-Armona Road regarding a report of a silent hold up alarm and a 911 call coming from the business.
Police said officers and deputies from the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, who had responded to assist, arrived at the gas station and surrounded the area.
Officials said they determined an armed robbery had taken place, but the suspect had already fled the area with an undetermined amount of money.
The suspect was a male adult between 23-25 years old, approximately 6-feet tall, with a thin build and very short hair, officers said. He was wearing a red shirt, black jacket and black tennis shoes when the crime occurred.
Police said the suspect was also armed with a silver handgun.
Anyone with information regarding this incident or the suspect is urged to contact the Hanford Police Department at 585-2540.
LEMOORE — A juvenile was arrested Saturday in Lemoore after allegedly stabbing another juvenile multiple times at a park, police said.
At around 6:30 p.m., Lemoore Police officers said they were called out by the Lemoore Volunteer Fire Department for a report of a person who had been stabbed.
Police said they found a male juvenile that had received multiple stab wounds to his torso, neck and head. They said the victim was transported to the hospital where he received treatment and is expected to make a full recovery.
Officers said several witnesses said the assault occurred at City Park, located at 350 W. Bush St., and the suspect was identified as a male juvenile from Lemoore.
Officers were able to locate the suspect and he was taken into custody without incident. Officials said the juvenile was booked into the Kings County Juvenile Center for attempted murder with a gang enhancement.
A second juvenile was also named as possibly being involved in the incident, police said. That juvenile was located, taken to the Lemoore Police Department for questioning and later released.
If you have any further information regarding this case, contact the Lemoore Police Department at 924-9574.