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From left: Petty Officer 3rd Class Antonio Nieto, retired Master Chief Joe Nieto, Beatriz Nieto and Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Nieto. Nieto retired after 30 years of service on Friday, but his two sons, Frank and Antonio, will continue their Navy careers at Atsugi.
From left: Petty Officer 3rd Class Antonio Nieto, retired Master Chief Joe Nieto, Beatriz Nieto and Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Nieto. Nieto retired after 30 years of service on Friday, but his two sons, Frank and Antonio, will continue their Navy careers at Atsugi. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan — By the time the sun sets on a second military career, a family from Atsugi may contribute more than 60 years of service to the U.S. Navy.

Joe Nieto retired as a master chief petty officer during a ceremony Friday at this base near Tokyo. In attendance were his wife, Beatriz, and, dressed in their Navy dress whites, Nieto’s two sons. Until Friday, all three Nieto men were assigned to squadrons from Carrier Air Wing FIVE and worked in the same hangar.

Joe Nieto, 50, was the chief maintainer for Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 115 (VAW-115). A native of Coahuila, Mexico, he signed up for the Navy the year after the draft ended in 1973, when Richard Nixon was president.

But Nieto’s ties to the Navy will remain strong through his sons: Petty Officer 2nd Class Frank Nieto, 27, is part of Sea Control Squadron (VS 21), while younger brother, Antonio, 22, is attached to Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 14 (HS 14), where he’s a rescue swimmer and a petty officer 3rd class.

The senior Nieto says he didn’t try to influence his sons to go Navy — but his sons say he led by example.

Antonio said he was enticed to consider the military by “all the respect my dad gets from everybody and still gets. He couldn’t set a better example for me or my brother.”

Joe Nieto said he offered both of his sons the chance to go to college. Frank, though, wasn’t interested in pursuing a degree. He started to think about the Navy while cutting lawns at Atsugi, where the Nieto family has lived since 1986. “I needed a better job,” he said, figuring he’ll be in for at most 10 years.

Antonio tried college for two years before sitting down with military recruiters. His plan was to join the Marine Corps but the recruiters “pretty much shrugged me off and said I wasn’t what they were looking for. I wanted to be an air crewman.”

Antonio wanted to jump from planes, and the Navy made it happen, he said. With just two years of service under his belt, he plans to follow in his father’s footsteps: “I have no intent of getting out. As far as I see it, I have 28 years left.”

Joe Nieto said he gave his sons “a bit of advice” before they went to boot camp but some things they have to learn for themselves.

“I just told them to pay attention, follow the rules and try not to get caught up with the wrong crowd — because there’s always a wrong crowd,” Nieto said. “I told them to have fun. There’s going to be rough days, there’s going to be days you wish you hadn’t joined, but it will all work out in the end.”

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