7th Fleet concludes heritage packed SOY Week: Winners announced
Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, announced the 2016 7th Fleet Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year (SOY) during a ceremony at the Chief Petty Officer Club at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY), Japan Feb. 10.
Information Systems Technician 1st Class Lance Parrish earned the 2016 Sea Sailor of the Year and Electronics Technician 1st Class Desiree Gonzales earned the 2016 Shore Sailor of the Year.
Chosen for their exemplary personal and professional performance, six nominees spent the week here participating in several professional development events to further cultivate their leadership. However, they weren’t alone. The Royal New Zealand Navy had two non-competitive SOY candidates who joined the nominees in each event, including the selection boards.
The New Zealand Sailors came to learn about the Sailor of the Year program and process.
“It’s been a great experience for me and for the other Sailor that has been up here,” said Leading Hand Henry Longstaff, a Royal New Zealand Navy Sailor. “Meeting the Sailors of the Year nominees from 7th Fleet has been a really good partnership experience strengthening our navies.”
Leadership and the sharing of experiences emerged as a central theme for the nominees in a week packed with events.
“This week is imperative because you get to work with senior leadership and learn things from them first hand,” said Electronics Technician 1st Class Desiree Gonzales, the 2016 Shore Sailor of the Year. “They want to share their knowledge with you. But mostly, it’s working with every other Sailor of the Year that has taught me something new this week that I definitely wasn’t prepared for.”
The six finalists spent the week here learning about the naval history and local heritage of the area. They visited Mikasa Park, the forward deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), and the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ship Takanami-class destroyer JS Ōnami (DD-111). They also conducted a joint community relations clean-up of the area outside the base with Sailors from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.
"The goal of Sailor of the Year Week is not only to formally recognize top notch first class petty officers in 7th Fleet, but also to give them an experience that they will take back to their commands and talk to their Sailors about, and in turn give them something to strive for," said Chief Thomas Hinkel, the lead coordinator for the week.
The finalists included Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Jason Gorni, assigned to Commander U.S. 7th Fleet, Information Systems Technician 1st Class Lance Parrish, assigned to Fleet Support Unit Seven, Logistics Specialist 1st Class Miguel Angel Cuellar Jr., assigned to Carrier Strike Group Five, Electronics Technician 1st Class Desiree Gonzales, assigned to Commander Task Force 72, Operations Specialist 1st Class Victor Simmiolkjier, assigned to Fleet Coordinating Group, and Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Benjamin Joshua Mongue, assigned to Commander Expeditionary Strike Group Seven. The two Royal New Zealand Navy Sailors were Leading Hand Coady Clark, assigned to Littoral Warfare Unit, and Leading Hand Henry Longstaff, assigned to HMNZS Manawanui (A09).
The Sailor of the Year program was established in 1972 by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Whittet to recognize an individual Sailor who best represented the ever-growing group of dedicated professional Sailors at each command and ultimately the Navy.
“Being nominated for Sailor of the Year really doesn’t mean that you are the end all be all representative of everything, it just means you have a great team that you work with,” said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Jason Gorni, one of the finalists. “Our job as first classes above all else is to support our team and push our team to be better.”
The winners of the Sea and Shore 2016 Sailor of the Year will represent U.S. 7th Fleet at the U.S. Pacific Fleet competition.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Kofonow/Released