By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ryan Riley
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, Adm. James G. Foggo III, announced the 2017 U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Shore Sailor, Sea Sailor and Junior Sailor of the Year during a ceremony held at the Naval Support Activity Naples, Italy, base theater Jan. 26, 2018.
Foggo lauded the finalists for their commitment and accomplishments.
“You wouldn't be sitting here unless you were stellar young Sailors,” said Foggo. “You have shown you are a cut above the rest and that you rose above. You are the cream of the crop.”
Foggo took a moment before the winners were announced to remind the finalists and the standing-room-only crowd of what is expected from the Sailors.
“What we need you to do is -- and you have all heard me say this a thousand times -- take the message to Garcia.Be self-starters… pull yourself up by your bootstraps and go to work and take on as much responsibility as you can,” said Foggo.
“Obviously you have done that or you wouldn't be here, so continue to do that and raise the next generation to be just like you,” said Foggo.
Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Michael Eaker was named Sea Sailor of the Year, Legalman 1st Class Jean Yusten was named Shore Sailor of the Year, and Yeoman 2nd Class Darren Givens was named Junior Sailor of the Year.
“It’s a real humbling experience for me to be recognized by my peers,” said Eaker. “It feels great and I look forward to the next level of competition, and to be able to teach my shipmates what I did to get here.”
The announcement was the culminating event following a week of activities scheduled for the finalists and their spouses by the U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Chiefs Mess to include group physical training, a community relations project, and cultural tours.
“There were a lot of great Sailors that came up for this and we all had a great week together,” said Yusten. “There was something we could learn from every single person that was here. So to be chosen amongst the best is something you never really expect to happen and I just hope I can make them all proud.”
Eaker will move on to compete next month at the Sea Sailor of the Year competition at U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Yusten will advance to compete later this spring at the Navy Shore Sailor of the Year competition at the Chief of Naval Operations.
The finalists were graded on criteria in 10 categories: primary responsibilities, job performance, leadership, command climate/sailorization, meritorious achievement, collateral duties, educational accomplishments, peer group/community involvement, personal appearance/military bearing, and boardmanship.
“Through the Sailors’ packages we are able to determine their technical competence within their respective ratings as well as their participation within the command and community, all of which are important,” said U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa Fleet Master Chief Raymond D. Kemp Sr. “The board interview allows the members to assess in person and validate what has been written about these outstanding Sailors. The interview also allows us to measure the Sailor’s knowledge on Navy programs and get their opinion on various subjects.”
Sailor of the Year is one of a number of recognition programs designed to encourage Sailors to perform well. Adm. Elmo Zumwalt, former chief of naval operations, created the Sailor of the Year program in 1972 to recognize outstanding Sailors at sea. The following year, the Shore Sailor of the Year program was introduced.
“Ultimately we want to celebrate excellence and recognize high level performance by fantastic Sailors and their families,” said Kemp.
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, oversees joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied and interagency partners, to enable enduring relationships and increase vigilance and resilience in Europe and Africa.