Veteran Showcase: Alessandro Sabatino shares his sea stories

U.S. Navy veteran Alessandro Sabatino enjoys a slower-paced life in Lake Riversides Estates. Anza Valley Outlook/Courtesy photo

Well known for his sense of humor and his cooking skills, Navy veteran Alessandro Sabatino is also recognized for his service to his country.

He enlisted in the Navy in 1986, fresh out of high school, he said.

“My father Ron Sabatino, my cousin Richard Shaw and my country were my inspirations for joining the Navy,” he said.

In his 10 years in the Navy, he was trained as an aviation metalsmith and worked on the Grumman E2 Hawkeye, an all-weather, carrier-capable tactical airborne early warning fixed wing aircraft and the Sikorsky H-3 Sea King helicopter.

Sabatino was deployed on six West Pacific tours.

“I’ve been to these countries more than three times each – Thailand, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Diego Garcia and Cuba, as well as Puerto Rico and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,” he said.

Sabatino had many adventures, including hair-raising encounters with Chinese and Russian navy vessels less than 500 feet from his ship.

He shared a tale about the shellback initiation, a Western seafaring tradition dating back at least 400 years.

The ceremony has to do with a sailor’s transformation from a slimy pollywog – a seaman who hasn’t crossed the equator – to a trusty shellback. This event is a way for sailors to be tested on their seaworthiness.

According to tradition, when the ship crosses the equator, King Neptune comes aboard to reign over his domain and judge pollywogs that are only posing as sailors and haven’t paid proper homage to the god of the sea.

High ranking members of the crew and those who have been shellbacks the longest dress in elaborate costumes and play the part of King Neptune’s court. Most commonly, the ship’s captain plays the part of the king. The event becomes a day of festivities, building camaraderie among the crew.

Upon discharge from the Navy in 1996, Sabatino was accepted into the Operating Engineers Local 12, conducting heavy equipment and survey operations. He is currently active with 24 years under his belt.

He moved to Lake Riverside Estates in 2018, using his Veteran’s Affairs home benefit.

“My future is to conclude my career in the Operating Engineers with a full retirement pension and to live out my days in the beautiful Anza Valley,” he said. “Cooking, playing music and gardening are my passions in life. I am trying to live in harmony with my neighbors and working to be the ‘change’ I wish to see in this world.”

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at