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U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC)

USFF Hosts 2019 Sea and Shore Sailor of the Year Award and Pinning Ceremony

by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Theodore Green, U.S. Public Affairs and Outreach
03 June 2020

President John F. Kennedy once said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

His words ring true today as the leadership, talent, and toughness of two of the Navy’s best Sailors were recognized as the 2019 U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) Command Sea and Shore Sailor of the Year (SOY).

Adm. Christopher W. Grady, USFF commander, recognized Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Carolina Berrio as the 2019 USFF Sea SOY, and promoted her to the rank of chief petty officer, and recognized Navy Counselor 1st Class Rebecca Beck as the Shore SOY during a ceremony at the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training (CNATTU) hangar onboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana, June 2, 2020.

“Your hard work, toughness, and dedication to our Navy resulted in your selection as Fleet Forces Sailors of the Year,” said Grady. “While this is not the ceremony we would normally have to commemorate this impressive achievement, let this remind us that what makes us the greatest Navy in the world is that we are an adaptable and capable and we won’t let COVID-19, or anything, stop us from recognizing, and celebrating, the best and brightest our Navy has to offer.”

The large ceremonial hangar at NAS Oceana gave gravitas to an otherwise humble gathering. Social distancing requirements meant only the awardees and select guests could come together to celebrate the occasion. However, the situation did little to lessen the excitement expressed by the awardees.

“It is a feeling that words cannot really capture,” said Berrio, of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81. “It is a Sailor’s dream come true. I represent not only my command but every hard working Sailor out there. I’m humbled to be selected and now I just want to pay it forward by continuing to lead Sailors in the right direction to strengthen our Navy.”

Berrio went on to say that she is honored and humbled to have her family present to witness this career milestone.

“Family is the backbone and motivation to do my best every day,” said Berrio. “It is an honor to be selected, and having my family here to see me being recognized gives meaning to their sacrifice. It is the best feeling to see my family so proud of me, and watching my daughter see me get such a high award means the world to me.”

Beck, of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 and a native of Maryville, Tennessee, echoed those emotions.

“This is an amazing feeling and truly an honor,” said Beck. “It is not everyday you are recognized like this for your accomplishments, and I am very grateful for the opportunity and look forward to helping guide and mentor others in the future.”

Beck added that she is grateful to have such a wonderfully supportive family to encourage her each day.

“I brought with me today my three children, as well as my wonderful husband,” said Beck. “I can tell you with all honesty that I would not have been able to accomplish near as much without the constant support of my husband and our families. They are always encouraging and help to keep me focused and grounded.”

As exciting as the occasion was for the winners and their family and friends, it was uniquely rewarding for Berrio. Following the awards ceremony, she was officially pinned as chief petty officer (CPO). Her daughter and sister pinned on her anchors. Her mother, placed her chief combination cover.

“I’ve always looked up to the chiefs mess, so now being part of it gives me a sense of accomplishment,” said Berrio, an Armenia, Columbia, native. “I want to be the chief who Sailors can trust to guide them in the right direction and push them to be the best. It is an overwhelming feeling to now be part of an association that takes care of everyone around them and keeps the Navy moving forward.”

The Navy’s regular active duty CPO pinning season takes place in September each year, but due to COVID-19, it will occur at a later date. However, the USFF Sea SOY is meritoriously advanced to chief while the Shore SOY goes on to compete at the Chief of Naval Operations level, presenting another opportunity to pin on chief.

As Berrio begins the next chapter of her leadership journey, she has some words of encouragement for those she leads, mentors, and trains to one day take her job.

“Do your job to the best of your ability regardless of how small it may seem; it will touch someone,” said Berrio. “Take care of your Sailors and train them the best way you can. Find the driving force that keeps you motivated in the Navy and hold on to it as a reminder to keep you grounded and set on your goals.”

Grady stressed that even in less than ideal situations it’s important to keep striving for excellence, stay motivated, and celebrate the triumphs of your team.

“As you continue to lead, mentor, and guide Sailors - our center of the universe - I ask you to dig deep into your leadership toolbox and find ways to innovate how we operate as a Navy. Be the masters of your trade, investing in the skill and innovation of our uniformed and civilian teams to continue to be the most capable and most professional Naval force in the world. You have proven that you have that fighting spirit to get the job done, and I know you will continue to bring that spirit to the fleet.”

The Navy’s Sailor of the Year program was established in 1972 by CNO Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Whittet to recognize high-performing E-4 through E-6 Sailors across the fleet.

Finalists for Fleet Sea Sailor of the Year:

  • Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Travis Free, USNS Comfort (T-AH 20)

  • Information Technology Specialist 1st Class Krystal Landrovediaz, U.S. Naval Forces Europe Detachment Maritime Ashore Support Team

  • Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Derek Rish, USS Monterey (CG 61)

  • Aerographer's Mate 1st Class Ciera Meadows, Naval Oceanographic Special Warfare Detachment – San Diego

  • Navy Diver 1st Class Thomas Gerace, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2

  • Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Matthew Thompson, USS West Virginia (SSBN 736)

Finalists for Fleet Shore Sailor of the Year:

  • Gunner's Mate 1st Class Colbee Barrett, Navy Munitions Command Atlantic Detachment Sigonella

  • Cryptologic Technician Collection 1st Class Edward Banks, Navy Information Warfare Training Group Norfolk

  • Information Technology Specialist 1st Class Christopher Manley, Naval Surface Forces Atlantic

  • Utilitiesman 1st Class Jesse Eder, Naval Construction Group (NCG) 2IS1 Marisol Besson, Undersea Warfighting Development Center San Diego


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