SAN DIEGO - A USS Makin Island (LHD 8) Sailor was named the recipient of the Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC) 2012 Sea Sailor of the Year (SOY) award during a banquet at the Hotel Del in Coronado, Calif., March 1.
Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 1st Class (AW/SW) Shawn-Patrick W. Bland, assigned to Makin Island's air department, was presented the award during the banquet which was sponsored by the Surface Navy Association.
"It was a surreal feeling to have the opportunity to stand next to some of the best Sailors in the Navy," said Bland. "Hearing my name being called as the winner was a huge honor."
Before the final selection, Bland had joined a group of seven other finalists to participate in oral board interviews, command events and community outreach activities. The group of Sailors and their spouses, many coming from outside the San Diego area, also met with several Pearl Harbor survivors as well as visited the USS Midway Museum and San Diego Zoo.
"I felt very humbled to even be named with some of the fleet's best Sailors," said Bland. "My wife and I felt very proud to be representing a command which takes excellence to a higher level."
While other Makin Island Sailors have competed for the award in the past, this was the first time a Makin Island Sailor was selected as the overall recipient of the SURFPAC Sea SOY award.
"It's not some impossible equation," said Bland. "A command that has great leaders with high standards will produce great leaders with high standards, and I feel that is what we are doing on the Makin Island and the Navy as a whole recognizes it."
Bland, a native of Tampa, Fla., entered the Navy Oct. 25, 2000. He attended Recruit Training Command with follow-on orders to Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) "A" School in Pensacola, Fla. His shore tour includes Recruiting Duty at Navy Recruiting District Ohio. His sea commands include USS Wasp (LHD 1) in Norfolk, Va., and USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in San Diego, where his collateral duties include serving as a Command Drug and Alcohol Program Advisor Assistant and Departmental 3M Assistant.
The awards banquet also served as an opportunity to recognize the numerous contributions of the Navy to national defense.
"Our nation is a maritime nation, one that began with six frigates. Today, we represent 70% of the fleet. I remain positive about where Surface Navy is headed; the oceans aren't getting smaller and the world isn't getting safer and our forces have a hard requirement to steam where and when needed and to be ready for anything-compassionate or kinetic," said SURFPAC Chief of Staff, Capt. Roy Kitchener during the ceremony. "One of the primary reasons for the positive outlook is because of the unprecedented quality of Sailors in our fleet. I look out and see tremendous talent and dedication, despite the challenges we face. The Sailors of the Year; the finalists; and the leadership from your respective commands give us great hope. "
More than 400 guests, including spouses, command leadership teams, distinguished military guests, and community supporters attended the ceremony.
Makin Island's 2012 Blue Jacket of the Year, Aviation Structural Mechanic 3rd Class Angela D. Rushworth, was also invited to the banquet as an honoree and said she enjoyed being able to support a shipmate.
"Being there was an honor," said Rushworth. "It was an example for any junior Sailor of what could happen if you keep a straight path and try your best, you could actually get there yourself one day."
Rushworth said the experience inspired her to become a better Sailor and hopefully a more effective leader.
"Seeing ABH1 in a similar work environment to my own makes me realize the possibilities of being Sailor of the Year are there for everyone," said Rushworth. "As long as you are motivated, a hard worker, and make the best of each situation you could make the biggest impression on a junior and a senior Sailor."
Bland will now compete in Hawaii against Pacific Fleet nominees vying for the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT) Sea Sailor of the Year title. 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
Makin Island returned from a seven-month deployment June 24, making history as the first U.S. Navy ship to deploy using a hybrid-electric propulsion system. By using this unique propulsion system, the ship saved over $15 million in fuel costs and the Navy expects to see fuel cost savings of more than $250 million, over the course of the ship's lifecycle. Lessons learned during Makin Island's maiden deployment prove the Navy's commitment to energy awareness and conservation and will positively influence future ship designs for several decades.
This initiative is one of many throughout the Navy and Marine Corps that will enable the Department of the Navy to achieve the Secretary of the Navy's energy goals to improve our energy security and efficiency afloat and ashore, increase our energy independence and help lead the nation toward a clean energy economy.
The ship is currently undergoing a planned maintenance availability (PMA) at Naval Base San Diego. During this seven month PMA period, Makin Island will receive numerous equipment upgrades, modernization, and general repairs. The PMA period will also ensure the ship will reach the full service life of at least 40 years.