U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) Master Chief Suz Whitman, right, Royal New Zealand Navy Sailor of the Year (SOY) Leading Hand and Lead Chef Alexis Gray, her mother, Shannan Clarke, and PACFLT Sailor of the Year Chief Hospital Corpsman Corey Smith tour the USS Arizona Memorial, Aug. 23. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brian M. Wilbur)

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - New Zealand’s 2015 Sailor of the Year (SOY) visited U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) headquarters during a trip to the United States, Aug. 22-24.

Leading Hand and Lead Chef Alexis Gray was chosen as the New Zealand SOY out of 2,500 personnel on Dec. 4, 2015. She is currently stationed at Devonport Naval Base in Auckland, New Zealand, and has served her country for more than seven years.

“As part of winning the New Zealand Sailor of the Year, I get to come over and experience America’s Navy, learn about what you do and see what I can take back with me to my navy,” said Gray.

During her trip to, Gray and her mother, Shannan Clarke, participated in tours of Washington, D.C., Chicago and Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, where she observed a boot camp graduation. While visiting PACFLT, Fleet Master Chief Suz Whitman took Gray to visit the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper (DDG 70), the USS Arizona Memorial, and helped coordinate visits to the Pacific Aviation Museum, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific and USS Missouri Memorial.

“My visit to PACFLT has been mind-blowing,” Gray said. “Coming here was on my bucket list so it’s been amazing to come to Pearl Harbor and get to the nitty-gritty history. I love everything about naval history and where we’ve come from so getting the opportunity to go out to the USS Arizona Memorial and experience it personally gave me a better understanding of Pearl Harbor.”

PACFLT Sailor of the Year, Chief Hospital Corpsman Corey Smith, accompanied Gray for the majority of her visit to PACFLT and expressed how much he enjoyed his time getting to know her.

“The past couple of days have been great,” Smith said. “Just getting to interact with Gray and seeing how we have a lot of the same issues as Sailors was pretty cool. She really connects with people right off the bat and is very genuine. That’s something that, no matter if you’re a Sailor or not, is going to help you be successful.”

Whitman expressed the importance of New Zealand sailors interacting with U.S. Sailors and having the opportunity to network and solidify partnerships.

“I feel it’s very important to build bridges with our partners and allies,” said Whitman. “Taking care of sailors is what it’s all about, whether it’s an American Sailor or a Kiwi sailor, we are all sailors.” After taking some leave to enjoy Oahu and Maui, Gray and her mother will travel back to New Zealand.