NOCVA’s Grassroots Organization: Roles and Responsibilities
As a grassroots advocacy group, NOCVA is led by a national office and regional chapters in the U.S. mainland, with advisors in the islands. All NOCVA members are volunteers. These committed individuals connect through online communication, through the www.chamorrovets.com website, onsite meetings and conferences, and frequent direct personal contact (in person and/or by phone), depending on the issue. Each level of the organization works independently in building NOCVA’s influence at the national, regional, and island level; all are critical to furthering NOCVA’s mission and vision.
Founders, National Staff, and Board of Directors
Celestin “Cel” Rivera Aguigui Co-Founder and National Coordinator
Cel was born in Agat, Guam, the oldest of eight children. He graduated from George Washington High School and then attended DePaul University, graduating with a degree in Political Science. After college, he returned to Guam and taught high school government.
Cel became a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, serving as a detachment commander and logistics officer both in the U.S. and at overseas bases. During the Vietnam War, he served as an aircraft maintenance officer for the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron. He supervised the entire maintenance operations consisting of 30 fighter aircraft and over 100 maintenance personnel. For meritorious service, he was awarded the Air Force commendation medal and bronze star.
After his military service, Cel became the first executive director of the Arizona Community Action Association, an anti-poverty program. He served as a legislative aide and district director for the late Honorable Antonio Won Pat, Guam’s first elected delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1989, Cel joined the US Census Bureau as a senior information specialist, where he represented the bureau at national conferences as a speaker, panelist, and exhibitor. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the bureau’s highest award, for improving communication between the government agency and the leaders of the Asian and Pacific Island communities during the 1990 Decennial Census.
In retirement, Cel served as a member of a Blue Ribbon Commission on Diversity and Race Relations in Maryland. He served as president of his local chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees and its Vice President for Legislative Affairs.
Cel has a long history of advocating for the rights of Chamorros. Through a lifetime of public service, he has developed a deep understanding of the U.S. political process. Combined with a wide-range of different career experiences – teacher, officer in the U.S. Air Force, community organizer for a state-wide non-profit organization, legislative aide in the U.S. Congress, demographic specialist in the Census Bureau, and participation in numerous community and grassroots initiatives – Cel is uniquely qualified to develop the vision of NOCVA, the nation’s first advocacy organization for Chamorro Veterans.
Lorenzo “Larry”Cruz (Fongo) Co-Founder and National Coordinator
Larry was born in Anigua, Guam, and grew up in Sinajana, where he was active in the community and island-wide sports program, playing baseball, softball, basketball, and football. He attended George Washington High School, and after graduation, he was employed by Pan American Airlines.
He later enlisted in the US Air Force and went on to serve 30 years, retiring at the rank of Chief Master Sergeant (CMSGT). His assignments include the following:
- Lackland Air Force Base (AFB) Air Training Command (ATC), San Antonio, Texas
- Technical School, Amarillo AFB, Texas, (ATC)
- 37th Munitions Maintenance Squadron, Walker AFB (SAC), Roswell, New Mexico
- 79th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS – MAC), Andersen AFB Guam
- Detachment 10, 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS—MAC), Bien Thuy Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam
- 1155th Technical Operations Squadron (AFTAC– HQ USAF), McClellan AFB, Sacramento, California
- US Naval Facility, Ritidian Point (Detachment 428, 1156th Technical Operations Squadron , AFTAC, HQ USAF), Guam
- Headquarters, North American Air Defense Command (HQ NORAD/ADCOM), Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Southwest Pacific Region, Defense Communication Agency, Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines
- Headquarters, Air Force Systems Command (HQ AFSC), Andrews AFB, Maryland
- Pentagon (Headquarters, USAF), Washington, DC.
After his military service, Larry was employed with the Department of Defense (DOD), serving at Headquarters, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), Washington, DC, as an Educator Recruiter and Educator Licensure Certification Officer. When the DoDEA schools were to be established on Guam in 1997, he was sent to Guam to recruit educators to staff the schools. Larry was instrumental in the successful establishment of the DoDEA Guam Schools. He served with the DoDEA for 15 years, retiring in June 2007.
Francisco “Frank”Dumanal Blas (10 July 1946 — 1 Oct 2017) Co-Founder and National Coordinator
It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of our friend and fellow NOCVA co-founder Frank D. Blas, who passed away on 1 October 2017.
Since NOCVA’s creation in 2011, Frank was a dedicated partner, tireless in his determination to build NOCVA into a strong advocacy organization for Chamorro Veterans. In addition to his role as Founder and National Coordinator, he headed NOCVA’s North Carolina chapter.
Frank was actively involved in NOCVA initiatives, conferences, and outreach events, always eager to support Chamorro Veterans. He was instrumental in planning the historic Chamorro Veterans Commemoration Ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. He later led a commemoration ceremony in Guam and presented gifts on behalf of NOCVA to the people of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands (the bell that was rung in the national ceremony and a plaque listing all 70 fallen heroes from Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands who died during the Vietnam War).
Known for being humble and generous, Frank will be remembered for his devotion to his beloved island of Guam, the Chamorro people, and his family. He was a proud Chamorro, a patriotic American, a brave soldier, and a loyal friend. To honor his memory, NOCVA will continue our fight to ensure that Chamorro Veterans get the recognition, respect, and benefits that they deserve – rights Frank fought a lifetime to secure for us all.
Frank Dumanal Blas was born on 10 July 1946 in Sinajana, Guam. He graduated from Ballou High School, Washington, DC, in 1966. On April 1967, he was drafted into the United States Army and completed Basic Training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He graduated from Airborne Jump School, Ranger Course, and Helicopter Door Gunner Course.
Frank served two tours in the Vietnam War. During his first tour, he was wounded in action in May 1968. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and numerous other awards.
Upon receiving orders for his second tour, he submitted a request not to serve due to his brother’s death while in high school, in Oxon Hill, Maryland, thus leaving him the only son to carry on the family name. Unfortunately, he request was denied.
In August 1990, he deployed in support of the Desert Storm War. In November 1990, he was ordered to return home, his retirement request approved. During his retirement out-processing, he was notified that he was under “Stop Loss” and ordered to return to his unit with the 82nd Airborne Division. He completed his tour in the Gulf War and officially retired in July 1991 after 23 years of military service. After retirement, he continued to serve as a civil servant in the Department of the Army. He served one year in Iraq and one year in Afghanistan, with the 7th and 5th Special Forces Group.
Frank has an Associate Degree in FAA Federal Aviation (Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic).
Norma was born and raised on Guam and is formerly from the village of Yona. She attended the University of Guam. Norma met and married John Jeter, a U.S. Marine and in 1974, moved to Washington, D.C., his home. Her uncle served in the U.S. Navy and her father served in the U.S. Army. She has over 25 years of experience providing administrative support to non-profit organizations, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the National Governors Association. Norma has served as Secretary and Hospitality Chair for the Washington, D.C.–area Guam Society of America. She joined NOCVA in August 2012.
National Membership Director
Roland “RC” Combado was born and raised in Talofofo, Guam. He graduated from George Washington High School in 1960, and after briefly working for the U.S. Post Office at Andersen AFB, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1961. After a 24-year career that included numerous domestic and overseas assignments, he retired in 1986 at the rank of Chief Master Sergeant.Immediately upon retirement, Roland was hired by Lockeed Martin as an Inventory Manager at the Ontario California plant. His responsibilities included the management, storage, and distribution of critical spares in support of a fleet of specialized aircraft. Roland was a proud team member of Skunk Works, responsible for aircraft designs, including the U-2, SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk, F-22 Raptor, and F-35 Lightning II. He retired in 1997.Roland joined NOCVA in 2012. He started out as the State Coordinator for Southern California and was later elected President of the San Bernardino and Riverside County Chapter. In 2013, Roland was elected as Chairman of the Board for NOCVA.
Roland chaired and organized the first NOCVA National Conference in Las Vegas in 2016, which was attended by more than one hundred people from across the country and Guam. He also co-chaired NOCVA’s first National Fundraiser in Las Vegas in 2017.
Roland is often regarded as the “go to” guy when it comes to VA disability and compensation benefits. Roland embraces NOCVA’s mission to empower our veterans to demand their VA benefits earned with sacrifice and service to our country and to assist veterans achieve high-quality lives with respect and dignity.
Libby Aguigui Nau
Public Relations & Media Coordinator
Libby was born in Nevada and grew up in Maryland. In 1983, she went to Guam with her parents and attended the University of Guam; during that time, she worked as a reporter for the Guam Tribune and later became its Washington, D.C. correspondent, covering Guam from Capitol Hill while attending college in Maryland. She graduated from the University of Maryland in 1986 with a degree in Journalism and began a career as an editor in the U.S. Government. Since the 1980s, Libby has worked with her father, Cel Aguigui, on a variety of initiatives in support of empowering the Chamorro people, most recently to help him make his vision of a Chamorro Veterans advocacy organization – NOCVA — become a reality.
Lourdes “Lou” Q. Barrett
Lou hails from the village of Yona, Guam, and is a Management Analyst with the Department of the Navy. Lou comes from a family of military veterans: her two uncles served in the Vietnam War, and she was married to a Naval Officer who was in the Civil Engineer Corps; she also has many other relatives currently in active duty or retired. Lou serves on a number of boards, including the Guam Society of America, Inc., the National Conference of State Societies, the Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Forum, and the New York State Society. She is passionate about the Chamorro culture and actively supports NOCVA’s values and goals. She holds a BS in Business Administration and an MS in Education.
Teresita “Terri” Guevara Smith
Chamorro Veterans Women’s Advisory Group
Terri was born in Guam and raised in Ordot village. She joined the U.S. Army as a Patient Administrator and eventually changed her career field to become an Intelligence Analyst in 1980. As a Veteran of Foreign Wars, she has been in the Persian Gulf War and the Iraq War. In the Iraq War, Terri deployed as a DOD Civilian from January — August 2005. She retired from active service as a Sergeant First Class in February 1997. Terri joined the Defense Intelligence Agency as an Intelligence Officer and earned numerous awards. Her greatest accomplishment was receiving the “The Knowlton Award,” one of the highest honors in Military Intelligence for her work in the Department of Defense Open Source Intelligence Collection Management Program. Terri also received three Intelligence Community Meritorious Unit Citations, the most current for her work in the Afghanistan Pakistan Task Force, and the Defense Intelligence Diversity Award 2003. Terri’s patriotic service spans over 37 years, in the U.S. Army and as a civilian with the Department of Defense.
Board of Directors
Mariano “Roy” Cruz Leon Guerrero, Chairman, NOCVA Board of Directors (2021-)
Mariano Roy Cruz Leon-Guerrero, enlisted in the United States Army in June 1966. After two tours in Vietnam, he served as Drill Sergeant and Senior Drill, Company A, 5th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, the same BCT company he took Basic with at Fort Ord, CA. Upon deactivation of the unit in 1976, Roy served as Assistant Operations Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant, and First Sergeant, Headquarters and Company A, 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Infantry and Command Sergeant Major of the 1st and 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. To conclude military service that spanned from Vietnam through Desert Storm, Roy served and retired from the Army as Regimental Command Sergeant Major, 75th Ranger Regiment in Feb 1993. He was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame on 19 June 1997 at Fort Benning, Georgia. This award was formed to honor and preserve the spirit and contributions of America’s most extraordinary Rangers.
Entry for Ranger Hall of Fame, www.army.mil
Chamorro Veterans Women's Advisory Group
What is the Chamorro Veterans Women’s Advisory Group (CVWAG)?
NOCVA values all Chamorro veterans and established a Chamorro Veterans Womens Advisory Group (CVWAG) to ensure that its policies,initiatives, and strategies are fairly administered and take into account the needs and interests of Chamorro women veterans.
How will the CVWAG operate?
The CVWAG will operate in an advisory role to NOCVA’s national coordinators and National Staff, advising them on matters of special interest to Chamorro women veterans. The CVWAG is managed by a senior adviser who is on the NOCVA national staff. The CVWAG’s efforts will be aligned with NOCVA’s mission and goals.
In addition to its advisory role, the CVWAG will be responsible for providing input to the NOCVA website, under a separate CVWAG webpage, for the purpose of distributing information of special interest to Chamorro women veterans and their supporters
What is the purpose of the CVWAG?
- To serve as a special advisory group to the NOCVA Board of Directors, national coordinators, and national staff to ensure that NOCVA is responding to the needs and interests of all of its members
- To make clear that NOCVA values Chamorro women veterans and encourages their active participation in NOCVA events and activities
- To create a resource within NOCVA to discuss issues of specific interest to Chamorro women veterans and to develop strategies and initiatives to address them