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ACU-5 Det. D Sailor Named 2011 Blue Jacket of the Year
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, Amphibious Squadron 5 Public Affairs
USS MAKIN ISLAND, At Sea - A Sailor assigned to Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 Det. D deployed aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) received the 2011 ACU-5 Blue Jacket of the Year (BJOY) award, Nov. 22.

Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman Zach Mroczkowski, a native of Momence, Ill., was introduced as the BJOY and received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal during a ceremony aboard the ship.

ACU-5s Blue Jacket of the Year award is presented annually to one Sailor, in paygrade E-3 or below, who most stands out amongst their peers for exceptional performance on and off duty.

"I think he was chosen for his professionalism, putting the team before himself, and having a positive attitude," said Gas Turbine Systems Technician (Mechanical) 1st Class Kevin Treadwell. "He has a 'can do' attitude, and no job is too big for him."

Treadwell is one of Mroczkowski's supervisors in ACU-5's Delta detachment currently embarked aboard Makin Island.

"Having him on our Det. for deployment is like the Chicago Bulls having Michael Jordan," said Treadwell.

In addition to his Blue Jacket of the Year award, Mroczkowski was recently selected for promotion to the next rank, petty officer third class.

The 20-year-old credited his volunteer work back on shore as one reason he stood out at ACU-5.

"I devoted a lot of my time to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), and other projects such as beach clean-ups in San Diego," said Mroczkowski. "I've really taken a liking to working with the MDA and I plan to keep devoting my time to it, wherever I end up later in my lifetime."

"It's fun to interact with the kids, and it teaches you a lot," he added. "You have to have patience with kids and I think learning to be patient has helped me with my job. Most of the time, you learn more from the kids themselves than they do from you. It's an amazing feeling."

While deployed with ACU-5, Mroczkowski's primary duties include welding and conducting preventative maintenance on amphibious vehicles called landing craft, air cushioned (LCAC).

"We basically repair anything that deals with metal on the LCAC," he said. "I prepare the metal to be welded and do the welding itself. Most of the jobs that I take part in include repairing cracks, holes in the boat and sheets of metal to be put in, called inserts."

"Some of the bigger, important jobs I've done are life rails and fuel tanks," he added. "There's a lot of testing you have to do involving those, such as water-tight testing, because you don't want to be leaking fuel-that wouldn't be good."

Mroczkowski said his mentor, Hull Maintenance Technician 2nd Class Mike Molina, helped set him up for success since his first day at the command.

"He really took me under his wing and told me what I'd need to do to be successful at ACU-5," said Mroczkowski. "He helped me step-by-step and played a big part in my Navy career, and my life, really. I definitely thank him for that."

Mroczkowski's collateral duties at ACU-5 include serving as the physical fitness coordinator for his division, handling the mail supply and finding ways to improve his unit as a member of the command assessment team.

"The E-3 and below community knows what's going on," said Mroczkowski. "They know the actual issues with a command, but sometimes they're too afraid to speak their thoughts. I was the only E-3 on the command assessment team, but I made sure to bring up issues that other people wanted to voice their concerns over."

While deployed, Mroczkowski said he plans to earn his primary warfare designator, the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist pin, and secondary warfare designator, the Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist pin. The designators represent a Sailor's knowledge of the ship, and general Navy surface and aviation operations.

ACU-5 Det. Delta, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., is part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, which is deployed in support of the nation's maritime strategy.

Makin Island deployed Nov. 14 along with the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD 52), which make up the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG).

The mission of the Makin Island ARG is to help provide deterrence, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas and provide humanitarian/disaster response as well as supporting the nation's maritime strategy when forward deployed.
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