The USS Little Rock Association Scholarship Program commenced in 2001 and was established to provide financial assistance on an annual basis to deserving NROTC students. Candidates apply in their third year of college by submitting a 500 word letter; they must be a direct descendant of a Naval service member (current or former) or had personal prior service. Awardees must have superior leadership qualities, aptitude for the service and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0.
This year, Arizona State University NROTC’s Officer Candidate John Lillyblad was awarded the prestigious honor of receiving a scholarship as the top winner of the USS Little Rock Association Program.
John Lillyblad is one of the NROTC unit’s Officer Candidates (OCs). Officer 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, OC 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 and maintaining a family. He is currently pursuing his degree at ASU in Computer Science and maintains an impressive 3.99 GPA.
OC Lillyblad was honored and grateful to receive the competitive scholarship award and said, “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 honorary membership has gone up on my ‘I love me wall’ with the rest of my Navy mementos and is a nice 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 students.”
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 in behalf of our Association. When you are able to meet with these 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 on 17 June 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.
On 30 January 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 on June 4, 1960 as CLG-4 (on June 30, 1975, USS Little Rock was re-designated CG-4).
Since her conversion, the USS Little Rock showed the flag in seventeen ports in eleven countries, and took part in many fleet and NATO exercises prior to her final decommission on 22 November 1976.
The Little Rock’s service to country continues as a museum ship at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park on the shore of Lake Erie in Buffalo, New York. 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 proudly the sole surviving member of the Cleveland class cruisers.
The USS Little Rock Association was founded on June 28, 1991 by James Kays, Donald Schuld, John Sheppard & Ed Caggiano, former servicemen who served aboard the cruiser. The USS Little Rock Association is a not-for-profit corporation, incorporated in New York. The Association offers men who worked aboard the Little Rock an opportunity to renew old friendships, make new ones, and to tell and retell the stories of their youth proudly serving on the USS Little Rock. Its membership is comprised primarily of Navy and Marine Corps veterans of service in USS Little Rock (CL 92) from 1945 to1949, or the ship's modernized configuration USS Little Rock (CLG 4) from 1960 to 1976.
The Naval ROTC unit at Arizona State University was established in 2010 and has since grown to be one of the largest in the nation. Officer Candidate Lillyblad winning this prestigious scholarship exemplifies the talent and dedication resident in the Sea Devil Battalion. Go Devils!