Aboard a ship designed to carry enough supplies to last 45 days, Jupiter Bongolan and his crew faced a monumental task after the USS Cole was bombed in October 2000: provide food for the crew, inspection team, FBI, and any others on shore who were assisting with the recovery, investigation, and return to American waters.
"We lasted 90 days out there and supported them,” says Bongolan, a facility specialist at $644 million asset Air Force Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas. “We left Yemen with a box of chicken nuggets and a box of chicken patties.”
That mission was just one that Bongolan encountered during his 21 years with the Navy.
He followed in his father’s footsteps, joining the Navy in 1996 and serving as a chief culinary specialist. While on shore duty, Bongolan was involved in facility and building management.
During his Navy career, Bongolan says the process of feeding a ship full of sailors changed. At first, he and his team cooked everything from scratch.
“We had to learn how to create it from a raw product to a finished product,” says Bongolan, who retired as a culinary chief in 2017. “Through the years, the Navy evolved into doing ready meals, and by the end of my career it was frozen and you just had to heat it up and enhance the flavor.”
During his service, Bongolan was involved in seven deployments. His first assignment was with the USS Anchorage (LSD-36), a 30-year-old dock landing ship that was decommissioned in October 2003.
He also served on the USS Anchorage (LPD-23), an amphibious transport dock that was launched in February 2011.
While aboard the newer USS Anchorage, Bongolan was part of the crew responsible for retrieving the unmanned Orion capsule NASA launched.
His time in the Navy taught Bongolan about organization, deadlines, and time management.
“The Navy taught you how to organize and prioritize stuff,” Bongolan says. “I had to learn how to organize paperwork, account for it, and pay the bills. And just like everyone else, we had deadlines.”
Those skills have come in handy at Air Force Federal. His work involves scheduling, making sure jobs are done correctly, completing paperwork, and working with vendors and contractors.
He also credits his Navy career with teaching him the value and importance of teamwork.
“You can’t leave a man behind,” he says. “Our credit union is a pretty small group, and it feels great to develop and get people into the team mentality.”