SAN DIEGO – Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) announced the 2010 SURFPAC Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year (SOY) during a banquet at the Marriott Hotel in Coronado, Calif., Feb 25, sponsored by the Surface Navy Association.
"It's a great opportunity to honor and recognize all the SOYs as being the best of the best in our fleet," said Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Vice Adm. D. C. Curtis, "This week was the result of a total team effort, I know each of you has grown from the experience and the training that will make you better leaders. I expect you to continue to set the example and inspire our junior Sailors to reach their potential. We have the greatest surface force in the history of the world because of our professional Sailors and their families. I am proud of you and the fleet is proud of you."
Electronics Technician 1st Class Petty Officer (SW) Jason S. Williams, USS Tortuga (LSD 46) was named the Sea SOY and Cryptologic Technician Technical 1st Class Petty Officer (SW) Justin J. Zolnik, Afloat Training Group Pacific (ATGPAC), was named Shore SOY. Nearly 400 guests, including spouses, command leadership teams, distinguished military guests, and community supporters attended the ceremony.
"The Sailors here tonight are hard workers and they put in a lot of hours; they represent the top percent of our very best," said SURFPAC Force Master Chief (SW) Eric Page. "The SOY program is just one program leadership can use to identify our best. It's our way of saying thank you and it gives us the opportunity to help them advance by putting them in the spotlight. When our junior Sailors see that, it makes them want to work harder and achieve that, so SOYs also become role models in the commands."
Williams was born in Albany, Ga., and graduated from Shaw High School in Columbus, Ga. He joined the Navy Feb. 13, 1997, and graduated from Navy schools for electronics, and communications security. His sea commands include USNS John Erickson (TAO 194), USS Safeguard (ARS 50), USS Germantown (LSD 42), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49), and now USS Tortuga (LSD). He currently is under orders to be the next Electronics Technician assignment detailer.
"I was overwhelmed and I think I almost fainted. I just can’t believe it,” said Williams of his selection at the Sea SOY. “Hard work has gotten me here. Of course hard work alone isn’t the only thing; I have a great support staff on board USS Tortuga. Without them, this couldn’t have been possible.”
Zolnik, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., enlisted in the Navy April 2002, and attended schools for electronics and electronic warfare. His sea assignments include USS Coronado (LCS 4) and the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). He is now the leading petty officer and electronic warfare assessor at ATGPAC. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Workforce Education and Curriculum Development from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.
“It was a surreal moment when they announced my name as the Shore Sailor of the Year. It could have been any first class in that room,” said Zolnik. “I owe this to my spouse. She is the number one element that has helped me get to where I am today. I am thankful for every day that she has been my wife. She supports me during underways, deployments and duty days. I couldn’t make it without her.”
Eight finalists took part in interviews where they were evaluated in areas including military bearing, professional performance and leadership. Their spouses had several training and mentoring sessions and participated in community-sponsored activities with their Sailors, including lunch with the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, a visit to the San Diego Zoo, and a tour of USS Midway.
The top 2010 sea finalists are: Hull Technician 1st Class Petty Officer (SW/AW) Gabriel Arroyo, USS Pinckney (DDG 91); Gas Turbine Systems Electrical 1st Class Petty Officer (SW) Jose Carillo, USS Lake Erie (CG 70); Logistics Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer (SW/AW) Angel E. Santos, USS Cape St. George (CG 71).
The top 2010 shore finalists are: Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Petty Officer (SW) Katia J. Brito, PCU Coronado (LCS 4); Operations Specialist 1st Class Petty Officer (SW/AW) Edison Faggett, SURFPAC; Master-At-Arms 1st Class Petty Officer (SW/EXW) Diego Gamboa, PCU William P. Lawrence (DDG 110).
Williams and Zolnik will now compete in Hawaii against Pacific Fleet nominees vying for the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT) Shore and Sea Sailor of the Year titles. The sea and shore-based commands of COMPACFLT represent more than 200,000 Sailors. The top COMPACFLT Sea Sailor will be eligible for meritorious promotion to chief petty officer and the Shore SOY will move on to competition in Washington, D.C., for possible designation as the 2010 Chief of Naval Operations Shore SOY.
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