HONOLULU - Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, announced Logistics Specialist 1st Class Blanca Sanchez as the 2014 Sea Sailor of the Year (SOY) and Steelworker 1st Class Brenton Heisserer as the 2014 Shore SOY during a ceremony at the Ala Moana Hotel in Waikiki March 27.
Prior to announcing the winners of the competition, Girrier commended all 10 finalists for their excellence, integrity, teamwork, and leadership.
“You embody the hallmarks that typify the values we look for. The junior enlisted look up to you as their teachers, role models and leaders, just as you looked up to those who helped shape you into the leaders you are today,” said Girrier. “…they [SOY finalists] embody every aspect of our Navy’s Warfighting Ethos – which exemplifies decisive leadership, teamwork and diversity. These Sailors are empowering leaders and superb team members. They have a sense of ownership, demonstrate unwavering integrity, and most importantly they inspire trust.”
Representing Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, Sanchez will fly to Washington, D.C. and be meritoriously promoted to chief petty officer; she was surprised to win 2014 Sea Sailor of the Year.
“I honestly didn’t even hear my name,” said Sanchez. “It took me a while to realize it was my name they were saying. It’s unbelievable and now that I’m starting to catch my breath I’m looking forward to what’s next and the great leaders I’m going to have.”
Heisserer, representing Naval Construction Group 1, will travel to Washington, D.C. to compete in the Chief of Naval Operations Shore Sailor of the Year competition.
“I told myself to remember to breath, it’s a special moment in my career and it flashed before my eyes. The important thing for me is to make sure that I give back and give the information I have learned to other Sailors. There’s nothing that says one of my Sailors or any other Sailors can’t be here next year.”
Leading up to the ceremony, the 10 finalists spent the week in Pearl Harbor learning about the rich naval history and heritage of the area with visits to the USS Arizona Memorial, where they honored the Sailors who lost their lives in the attack on Pearl Harbor with a wreath-laying ceremony, the Battleship Missouri Memorial and the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl. They also spent time networking and speaking to Navy leaders from throughout the Pacific Fleet.
“They [SOY finalists] have integrity and want to volunteer; they’re the first to come to work and the last to leave. It takes a good family to recognize that and help them as one team, one fight,” said U.S. Pacific Fleet Master Chief Marco Ramirez. “Recognition goes a long way; we need to recognize our Sailors who work for us day in and day out. The SOY program is just one way to do it.
According to Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Joseph Mathews, time spent with the other nine finalists during the week also allowed him the opportunity to build strong, lasting relationships with his peers.
“Being here has been a great experience,” said Mathews. “Just getting to know my fellow 1st classes, and getting to know them as people, has been the biggest thing for me. A lot of us have the same story: spouses, family back home and kids. And talking about that really takes you away from everything and makes you realize that now we’ll be a part of each other’s family as we leave here and keep in touch with each other.”
For many of the other Sailors, the road to becoming a SOY finalist has been a rewarding experience in and of itself, one filled with self-determination and selflessness.
“Sailor of the Year, for me, has meant a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Logistics Specialist 1st Class Stacey Myers. “This year there was a lot of personal adversity I had to deal with, but I went to work every day with a smile on my face, because I knew my team was depending on me to get it done.”
Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Matthew Meadows, 2013 Sea Sailor of the Year winner, said being ‘Sailor of the Year’ is all about paying tribute to those who have supported the Sailor and all of their hard work that followed.
“No one becomes ‘Sailor of the Year’ alone,” said Meadows. “Being given the title of ‘Sailor of the Year’ is not about you, it’s about the people who helped you get there, whether through the support of a spouse, loved one, friend, the Chiefs Mess, your junior Sailors, or fellow first classes. That title is a testament to those who have helped these Sailors get to that spot, and all of the hard work that they’ve given in return.”
The Sea Sailor of the Year finalists were: Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) David Dysart, USS Makin Island (LHD 8); Hospital Corpsman 1st Class David Gloria, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics; Yeoman 1st Class William Kennedy, USS San Francisco (SSN 711); Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Issa Khalil, USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70); Logistics Specialist 1st Class Blanca Sanchez, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4.
The Shore Sailor of the Year finalists were: Navy Counselor 1st Class Sara Dozier, Submarine Group Nine; Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Misty Beck, Navy Munitions Command West Detachment North Island; Steelworker 1st Class Brenton Heisserer, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 1; Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) 1st Class Joseph Mathews, USS America (LHA 6); Logistics Specialist 1st Class Stacey Myers, Fleet Air Forward Detachment Misawa.
Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Whittet established the SOY program in 1972 to recognize an individual Sailor who best represents the group of dedicated professional Sailors at each command and, ultimately, in the Navy.
Within 10 years, the Sailor of the Year program was expanded to include the shore establishment and Navy Reserve Sailors.