A tour like no other
Naval officers from many countries see demonstrations by local law agencies
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By Dave Williams  June 6, 2014 12:00 am

Herlinda Heras is down with anything that supports or promotes the Navy…that’s the self-admitted military brat that comes out in her.

The Rohnert Park resident on Monday again spearheaded a tour of Sonoma County for students from the Naval War College in Newport Beach, R.I. The students are part of the War College’s Field Studies Program and consists of naval officers from various countries including Canada, Finland, Bulgaria, Yemen, Oman, Afghanistan and Taiwan.

During their tour, the students had the opportunity to see rescue demonstrations by a variety of local law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard and the California Dept. of Fish and Game.

“No one who is here from other countries is below the rank of Lt. Colonel,” Heras said. “And these men are among the best from their countries because they are nominated by their own navies.”

According to Heras and CHP Officer Jon Sloat, the CHP’s public relations chief, this event was supposed to take place at the Fire Training Center in Santa Rosa but had to be moved at the last minute to a soccer field at Sonoma Mountain Village because of insurance concerns from city staff in Santa Rosa and fees that were too high. But Sloat said getting this event organized was of little trouble.

“We’re getting it down. At first took at lot to get some of the agencies involved,” Sloat said. “But we have it together and we know who we want to call as far as demonstrations.”

After having lunch at Sally Tomatoes, the students saw a rescue by Sonoma County Sheriff’s helicopter Henry 1, a jaws of life demonstration by the Rohnert Park Dept. of Public Safety’s fire division.

Sloat said what the students enjoyed most was simply talking with local law enforcement and rescue workers.

“These guys are military officers, so they’ve been around weapons and helicopters,” Sloat said. “But they see a lot of stuff on television and in the movies, but having lunch and talking with real people and they get to talk with real people seems to be the biggest thing they get out of it.”

These tours would not have happened for the students had Heras not been visiting Ground Zero in New York City in 2012. There, she encountered a group of men in uniform who were also visiting Ground Zero. Upon speaking with Commander Bill Ellis, she learned he was a Santa Rosa native and was working with the Naval War College. He invited her to a VIP tour of the 9/11 Memorial, and she in turn offered to host the students on a tour of the county.

“She’s into just about everything in the county,” Sloat joked about Heras. “She’s been great.”

Heras, 47, works as an insurance agent and is very active in the Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati, the RP Chamber of Commerce and funds for the local YWCA Domestic Violence Series.

According to Sloat, students from the Naval War College will be returning to the county in November.

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