USS PELELIU, At sea - Accountability, responsibility and leadership are words usually associated with descriptions of what it takes to be selected as the Sailor of the Year (SOY). For amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5), those characteristics were recognized in a particular Sailor which earned him the award as Peleliu’s SOY 2012.
Aviation Support Equipment Technician 2nd Class (AW/SW) Juan A. Diaz, from the Bronx, New York City, N.Y. was selected to be recognized as an example for Sailors to emulate in his command.
“The decision to put him up for SOY was made for multiple reasons. Not only is he highly involved inside the shop, he’s also highly involved inside the command,” said Aviation Support Equipment Technician 1st Class Roscoe F. Lombardino, Diaz’s leading petty officer. “He’s fully qualified and a hard charging Sailor.”
This is not the first time Diaz has been recognized for his character. Throughout his naval career Diaz has been chosen by his leadership from his previous commands to compete against his peers for various awards. Since reporting aboard Peleliu in December 2010, he has been selected for Sailor of the Quarter twice and most recently as Sailor of the Year.
“I feel I was selected because I give more than I try to get. I make sure my Sailors are taken care of and I try to be a part of the team as best I can,” said Diaz. “The end result is I’m seen as a proactive Sailor when actually I’m just trying my best to work for everybody else, not for myself.”
Being recognized by his peers as someone who has a drive and deep routed motivation, those who work with him see continued professional and personal growth in him as a Sailor.
“He has improved since I’ve known him,” added Lombardino. “When I first met him he had a very strict demeanor about him, he was very professional about it but he was a little impersonal. If you asked him a question, he gave a very direct answer, he seemed like he had some walls up, but since then those walls have definitely come down. Now he’s more willing to take on different things with the command itself, such as, the president of the Second Class Association. In this position you have to be personable so I would say that he has not only grown in his career but he has grown as a person.”
When considering his abilities and determination, his accomplishments were not unexpected by those who have known him personally.
“Diaz has worked hard since checking on board Peleliu, performing far above his peers and has set a new standard for all second classes on board,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Benjamin Callen, Diaz’s personal mentor aboard Peleliu. “His selection as Sailor of the Year is well deserved.”
There are moments in a person’s career that can change how he or she perceives skills of what it takes to be a Sailor. For Diaz, one of these moments came in the form of a leadership position.
“I think a pinnacle moment for me when I realized I could do well in the Navy was when I was promoted to E-5,” said Diaz. “I transferred to my second command and even though I was the most junior E-5 there, I was put in position as the production manager. It was something the chain of command saw right away. They saw that I had leadership and management skills, and that was something I took a lot of pride in. It was very humbling to be placed as the supervisor after being there for only two months. That was the moment I realized I have what it takes to succeed.”
With the key shaping moments in his career, Diaz understands it began with certain qualities that would make him successful.
“I think I’ve had the qualities all along; they’re just more refined now. I’ve had to sharpen some things up and the end result got me Sailor of the Year, which is great,” Diaz said.
The Navy served as a tool to open up opportunities and possibilities for Diaz.
“Initially when I joined the Navy, my drive was to see what I could do,” added Diaz. “I was born into a poor family, I’m the only who actually left home for the first time. I wanted to see what I could do on my own without anyone’s help.”
The drive to success remains the same, but there are new motivating factors that push him to be the best he can be.
“I have a wife and son at home and family life is great,” Diaz said. “My son is 21 month old. Seeing him grow up, develop and the joy in his eyes are really the motivating factors for me. I am really looking forward to going home and seeing my wife and son.”
With a career headed in the right direction, Diaz desires to continue to go above and beyond with future plans for himself.
“Right now my immediate goal is making first class petty officer and an ultimate goal of being a commissioned officer,” Diaz said. “The Navy is changing and it’s getting harder to make rank along with other reasons people are getting separated. Even though I think I’d be fine in the civilian world right now, I still see myself being more successful in the Navy.”