Salutes & Awards

March 22, 2012

Senior BlueJacket of the Year nominees announced


HM! Michael Arroyo page 4

HM1 Michael Arroyo

HM1 Michael Arroyo is a corpsman at Branch Health Clinic China Lake, where his service and performance has earned him a nomination for BlueJacket of the Year for the second time since arriving in 2009.

Originally from Pomona, Calif., Arroyo joined the Navy in 1998 as part of a family tradition; both his father and grandfather had served in the military before him. “It’s what I wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “I actually enlisted as a junior in high school. I spent a year in delayed entry program and then left a month after I graduated.”

As a corpsman, Arroyo has traveled the world and done multiple combat deployments. “I was stationed with the Marines in Okinawa,” he said, noting it as the highlight of his career. “I’ve deployed with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, Korea and 29 Palms. The only other shore-duty command that I have been to was a clinic in Pensacola, Fla.”

At China Lake Arroyo works as the lead petty officer for the family outpatient department, the largest and busiest department at the Clinic, with almost 3,000 patients enrolled at the facility. “We’ve gone through a major transition in how we do medicine as a whole in the Navy, so I’ve been a big part of that,” he said. “I think daily, just getting junior troops and Sailors up to speed and making sure that you’re meeting the requirements of the Navy, but satisfying your customers as well. That’s probably the biggest thing.”

His current nomination for Senior BlueJacket of the Year has Arroyo feeling grateful. “It’s awesome. It’s a very good experience that civilians out there in the community recognize what you do,” he said. “I definitely want to thank my command. I’m on my way out [of China Lake]; it is something that was kind of unexpected for me. I’m just trying to make sure I leave a good legacy behind for my junior guys to succeed. But, I definitely wasn’t expecting this; I want to thank my officer in charge, my chief, as well as the master chief”¦ and, the Navy League, of course. I’ve dealt with them not just here, but at previous duty stations. They’re always willing to contribute and recognize Sailors and Marines.”

“I have orders right now to the U.S.S. Ford; it’s a frigate, out of Everett, Wash.,” said Arroyo, who will soon be leaving China Lake. “I’ll be one of two corpsman. I’ll be the department head of the clinica onboard that ship. So I am definitely excited about that.”


ET1 Kyle Hanson

ET1 Kyle Hanson has not only been named the 2011 Sailor of the Year for Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake, but has also been nominated for Senior BlueJacket of the Year.

“I joined the Navy in 1996 because I grew up in a small town [Caledonia] in Minnesota and I wanted to get out and see the world, travel, do something different,” said Hanson. After being deployed on the U.S.S. Momsen, the U.S.S. Higgins and the U.S.S Benfold, much of his ambitions have come to fruition. “I’ve primarily been on the west coast. But, I have been to Singapore, Hong Kong, the Seychelles, Kenya, Chile, Peru and a few different ports in Mexico.”

NAWS China Lake is Hanson’s third shore duty. He has also been stationed at Naval Air Station Meridian Miss., and completed a tour of recruiting duty. “Just the fact that I got to bring my experiences in the Navy to primarily high school kids and give them the opportunities that I had is kind of what made it rewarding,” he said.

At China Lake, Hanson serves as the ground electronics maintenance officer for Air Operations. During his off hours, he chooses to volunteer his time in the local community. “I like Ridgecrest, I like the small town,” he said. “I volunteer… I work at the animal shelter, and I have two dogs of my own that I spend a lot of time with. I’m not too used to the hot weather, but I appreciate the small town community feel here.”

Hanson appreciates his nomination for Senior BlueJacket of the Year “It’s a good thing. I am not one to seek recognition, but it is nice that people are recognizing the work that I do,” he said. “My chain of command has put a lot of confidence and trust in me and into my abilities. I hope I am proving them right [to do so] by getting the job done every day. More important than them are the guys that actually work for me. They’re the ones who are putting in the work and the effort to make ground electronics successful. Their success leads to my success, because of what they do is why I am here.”

Hanson isn’t entirely certain where he will go when he leaves China Lake but he looks forward to the future. “It’s kind of unknown,” he said. “But, more than likely, I’ll go back to a ship; back to sea. I still have five years left in the Navy, a lot of time left to get back out there.”


E6 Rebecca Kent

E6 Rebecca Kent is stationed at China Lake with Air Test and Evaluation Squadron NINE (VX-9). She finds her nomination of Senior BlueJacket of the Year to be a humbling event.

Originally from Muscle Shoals, Ala., Kent joined the Navy for the adventure and opportunity that came with it. “I joined the Navy in July of 1997 because I didn’t want to stay in Alabama and work construction or at a factory the rest of my life,” she said.

Since joining, Kent has had her share of diverse duty stations including two years spent in Rota, Spain. From there she was sent back across the Atlantic to Brunswick, Maine for six years before returning to the south for duty at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.

Kent’s favorite assignment, to date, has been the four years she spent stationed with the Navy’s most famous showmen, The Blue Angels. She relished the assignment saying that they were “doing shows and showing the country what the Navy is about.”

At China Lake, Kent works for VX-9 as the lead petty officer in charge of logs and records. It is an essential job as she describes, “I am responsible for eight Sailors and ensure that the logbooks for the 22 aircraft that are in our squadron are kept up to date and accurate.”

Kent enjoys China Lake and the surrounding community describing it as a “nice small town community spot that is friendly.” Being stationed at China Lake allows Kent to be close to loved ones. When she isn’t busy with her duties at VX-9, Kent dedicates herself at home as well, “I like to hang out with my family and son in my spare time.  I have family in Palmdale and go there quite often.”

“It is very humbling; I feel very honored,” said Kent about her nomination for Senior BlueJacket of the Year. “I think I was nominated because I try to be a good Sailor and help out and be the kind of Navy League, BlueJacket of the Year-type person.”

Kent is in the Navy for the long haul and looking forward to what other adventures and opportunities may come her way. “I plan to stay in and retire, hopefully make chief someday and be somebody when I grow up,” she said. “I’m not really picky on where I get stationed next.  I have enjoyed all of my previous duty stations and I will make the best out of wherever I go.”


AT1 Justin Kramer

AT1 Justin Kramer, Senior BlueJacket of the Year nominee from the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) West, is a second-generation Sailor. Winning this award would be an accomplishment for his family as much as it would for him.

Originally from Kansas City, Mo., Kramer joined the Navy in 1995. “It was kind of a family tradition, my father was active duty Navy at the time,” he stated.

Kramer’s career has taken him to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Fla., NAS Cecil Field, Fla., and NAS North Island, Calif. He has also been stationed onboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and the U.S.S. Ronald Regan. For Kramer, though, there are no highlights or moments that stand out as exceptional because, he and his family have enjoyed his entire career, thus far. “I really don’t think I could pick a moment. I am really just pleased with all of it, especially the support I get from my family, and they love the fact that we are a Navy family.”

At China Lake Kramer works as a detachment leading petty officer for the FRC. He enjoys life at the installation taking full advantage of the abundant outdoor activities. “I love China Lake, my boys all race dirt-bikes so this is the perfect place for them,” he said.

Kramer is quick to thank those who have helped him during his time at China Lake and names them as part of the reason he has been nominated for Senior BlueJacket of the Year. “Obviously, I would like to thank my command,” he said. “[Especially] Chief Murray. In 17 years he has been the best chief I’ve ever served with.”

“I like to think it [the nomination] is because I work hard, do my best every day, show up early and perform with distinction. At least I hope so,” said Kramer, who elaborated what winning would mean for him and his loved ones. “It’d mean a lot; my family is rooting for me, my wife and three sons are all excited, just as excited as I am about it.”

In the future, Kramer is hoping to find even more distinction in his career with the Navy. When he finally finishes his career in the military, he hopes to serve his country out of uniform as well. “I want to retire, hopefully make chief this next cycle, and then hopefully find another job with the Department of Defense,” he said.


AZ1 Juan Zapata

AZ1 Juan Zapata from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE ONE’s (VX-31) contract oversight team is honored to be a nominee for the Senior BlueJacket of the Year Award.

Originally from Los Angeles, Calif., Zapata joined the Navy in 1998. “I wanted to see the world and serve my country at the same time,” he said.

Zapata was sent to the U.S.S. Enterprise for his first duty station where he served as part of the Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team, something he considers a highlight in his career. “I was boarding around 15 ships in probably a two-month time frame,” he remembered fondly.

Zapata was then sent to Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., before becoming part of “The Golden Swordsmen” – Patrol Squadron FOUR SEVEN (VP-47) at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe, Hawaii. Zapata then became a member of  Consolidated  Maintenance Organization TWO before it was decommissioned and he filtered back into VP-47.

Now stationed with VX-31 at China Lake, Zapata currently oversees the squadron’s contract for the military. “I conduct surveillance, monitoring and verification of work performed by civilian contractors,” he said.

When it comes to life onboard China Lake, Zapata seems to be enjoying himself. “I like being involved with command events. I’ve played on the commands softball, football and soccer teams; didn’t play much this year, though. I’m more of a family man, spending as much time with the family as possible while onshore duty is my number one priority,” he said. “It takes a while to get used to. I came from Hawaii, the climate and everything is quite different, but I enjoy it now.”

Zapata couldn’t be happier about being nominated for Senior BlueJacket of the Year. “It’s my first time, so it is pretty exciting for me and the family. It would be a huge step in my career, I believe. I’ll be tremendously honored if I do receive it,” he said, elaborating on what he thought set him apart from other Sailors in his squadron. “I’m not sure, but I would like to say my work ethic.”

Zapata is quick to mention those around him who have guided him and ultimately helped him receive the nomination. Saying it was “my chain of command and specifically my khaki leadership,” who got him where he is.

Zapata hopes to enjoy a full career with the Navy. “I just reenlisted for six years, so that will put me shy of 20. Hopefully, I’ll keep on going passed 20 and make chief,” he said.

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