PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - U.S. Pacific Fleet announced the selection of Steelworker 1st Class Louis Salazar as the 2011 Sea Sailor of the Year (SOY) and Navy Diver 1st Class Andrew Strause as the 2011 Shore SOY during a luncheon at the Hale Koa Hotel in Honolulu March 30.
Prior to announcing the winners of the competition, Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, praised all of the SOY nominees for their hard work and dedication.
"Today is about the stellar Sailors here with us today, it's about the families that have accompanied these Sailors and it's about how each Sailor, in their own distinct way, has made a difference and have clearly demonstrated the potential of doing even greater things," Haney said. "These are the enlisted leaders of today, these are the command master chiefs of tomorrow, these are very special people."
Nine Sailors from around the Pacific competed in this year’s competition, four in the Sea SOY category and five in the Shore SOY group. Salazar, of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 40, recognized that excellent leadership contributed to his professional growth and nomination to compete in the SOY competition against this group of highly qualified Sailors.
“The mentorship and guidance that my seniors have given me throughout the 12 years I’ve been in the Navy started getting me into that commitment, dedication and leadership mindset,” Salazar said. “&ellips;I am honored and deeply humbled to be selected out of the high-caliber Sailors that were here competing at this level.”
Salazar will travel to Washington D.C. to be meritoriously promoted to chief petty officer.
Other sea SOY finalists were Personnel Specialist 1st Class A.J. Cunha of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 77, Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Kevin Mangini of Naval Special Warfare Command, and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Tyler Taylor of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific.
Strause who works at Ship Repair Facility and Japan Regional Maintenance Center, Detachment Sasebo, shared similar feelings about his selection as the Shore SOY.
“It’s certainly an honor and I think it’s going to take a while for it to sink in, hopefully it’s a good representation of my command and community and what we do and I hope to go onto the next level and represent well,” said Strause. “Everybody here deserved this title and I am honored to be standing here right now.”
Strause will travel to Washington D.C. in April to represent the Pacific Fleet in the Chief of Naval Operation’s Shore Sailor of the Year competition.
The shore SOY finalists were Equipment Operator 1st Class Michael Hamlin of Naval Construction Division One, Sonar Technician Surface 1st Class Heath Northcutt of Naval Submarine Forces Pacific, Information Systems Technician 1st Class Ebony Torres of U.S. Third Fleet and Navy Counselor 1st Class Rex Parmelee of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Even for the Sailors who weren’t selected as winners, just competing in the competition itself has its own rewards.
“This week has been a phenomenal schedule of events that has truly honored the best in the Pacific,” Parmelee said. “I have been blessed with a great command and the Sailors that I work with have been nothing but supportive, I could not have gone this far without them or my wife.”
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 represented the group of dedicated professional Sailors at each command and ultimately the Navy. Within ten years, the Sailor of the Year program was expanded to include the shore establishment and Navy Reserve Sailors.