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SAN DIEGO (July 20, 2017) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Sonia Smith, recipient of the 2017 Lt. Cmdr. Regina P. Mills Leadership award, instructs Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Fuel) 3rd Class Kyle Davis on how to properly fill out the equipment run logs aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). The Lt. Cmdr. Regina P. Mills Leadership award was created by the Aviation Boatswain's Mate Association (ABMA) and is given annually to Sailors who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills and a strong work ethic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sabyn L. Marrs/Released)
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Essex Sailor selected for 2017 Lt. Cmdr. Regina P. Mills Leadership Award

SAN DIEGO - Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Sonia Smith was selected as one of two 2017 Lt. Cmdr. Regina P. Mills Leadership Award recipients, June 21.

Smith, a Sailor aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), was selected because of her superior performance in the workplace and exceptional leadership qualities.

“She was a shoe-in for the award in our eyes,” said Senior Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Justin H. Melton, Smith’s leading chief petty officer. “Like Regina, she takes care of her Sailors and gets the job done the right way.”

At the time of her selection, Smith was a 2nd Class Petty Officer serving collateral duties as both divisional air warfare and surface warfare coordinator, and departmental mentor coordinator. Smith is also the leading petty officer for the V402 work center, comprised of 15 junior Sailors responsible for the purification, filtration, storage and delivery of more than 400,000 gallons of jet fuel.

“I’ve worked under her for three years,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 2nd Class Cody J. Stone. “I came here as an Airman and now I am a 2nd Class Petty Officer, and she definitely helped me to stand out in my division and pointed me in the right direction. If you don’t understand something she’ll help you out and try to resolve any problems herself before taking it to the next level.”

The Lt. Cmdr. Regina P. Mills Award has been presented annually to one east coast Sailor and one west coast Sailor in the Aviation Boatswain’s Mate community since 2012. Each year the Aviation Boatswain’s Mates Association (ABMA) asks commands if they have Sailors to nominate for the award. If so, the command can put together a package which the ABMA uses to select winners of the award.

“I knew about the award, but I never looked into filling the wickets for it,” said Smith. “I just do my job and take time to care about my Sailors. I love being an AB and that comes out in what I do, and its awesome that my chain of command took care of me.”

The Regina P. Mills Leadership Award was created by the ABMA in honor of Lt. Cmdr. Mills, the Navy’s first female aircraft handling officer. Mills was killed by a vehicle while assisting others involved in a traffic accident in Gig Harbor, Wash., Jan. 23, 2012.

“She was a very stand out figure in our community,” said Melton. “She was a great leader and she was respected, not just because of her rank, but because of how she took care of her Sailors. Petty Officer Smith encompasses a lot of those leadership qualities that Regina had.”

Smith said that the award was overwhelming because she had gotten to know Mills while working with her aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

“It brought back a little nostalgia and it really hit me when the naval message came out informing me I had been selected,” said Smith. “I was proud just knowing her, what she was about and how hard she worked.”

Recipients of the award were announced July 5. Smith will officially receive the award during the ABMA Symposium in August.

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