The Indian Wells Valley Navy League held the 41st annual BlueJacket of the Year awards dinner March 24, naming AZ1 Rebecca Kent of Air Test and Evaulation Squadron NINE (VX-9) and ET3 Joseph Fry of Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) China Lake the senior and junior Bluejacket of the Year, respectively.
The award honors enlisted Sailors and Marines stationed at China Lake for outstanding performance of duties and exemplary conduct; simply being nominated is considered an honor. This year’s nominees included ET1 Kyle Hanson, NAWS; AT1 Justin Kramer, Fleet Readiness Center; Sgt. Mark E. Comer, VX-9; ADAN Joan D. Tuason, VX-9; HM1 Michael Arroyo, Branch Health Clinic, and AZ1 Juan J. Zapata, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron THREE ONE.
“The Sailors and Marine nominated for Bluejacket of the Year tonight serve their country and their community with excellence, commitment and selfless dedication, “said Rear Adm. Mat Winter, commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD), and guest speaker for the event. “They will be the first ones to tell you that they are sitting on the shoulders of their commands tonight representing all their shipmates. This is why they deserve this special recognition.”
Donations from local sponsors allowed the IWV Navy League to award the senior and junior Bluejackets of the Year a $2,000 cash prize, and the six runnersup $1,000. Major donations were given by DCS Corporation; EclecTek LLC;Ã‚Â Jacobs Technologies; Lockheed Martin; L-3 Global Security and Engineering Solutions; New Directions Technologies Inc.; Raytheon; Ridgecrest Elks Lodge;Ã‚Â Ridgecrest Lions Club; Wyle; retired Navy Capt. and Mrs. Mark Storch and retired Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. Shel Simonovich.Ã‚Â Other contributors included American Legion Post number 684, Boeing, China Lake Mustang Association, Coldwell Banker Best Realty, Cosner-Neipp Corporation, Dr. Daniel Kus DDS, Rotary Club of China Lake, T.J. Frisbee Bicycles, The News Review and numerous private donors.
Junior BlueJacket of the Year Fry is originally from San Francisco, Calif. and joined the Navy in 2009. NAWS China Lake is his first duty station. “He hit the ground running as soon as he got here,” said Capt. Dennis Lazar, commanding officer, NAWS China Lake. “He shows up to work every day with a smile on his face. He is eager; he wants to get going and he is definitely shooting straight for the top.”
“It’s amazing. I am still nervous because I wasn’t expecting it,” said Fry after receiving the award.
Senior BlueJacket of the Year Kent is an Alabama native who served with the famed Blue Angels Squadron before being stationed at China Lake. Kent was also named VX-9’s Sailor of the Year for 2011 without being stationed there for the entire year. “She did more in ten months than her competition did in 12,” said Capt. Brett M. Pierson, commanding officer, VX-9. “In addition to all of her phenomenal work, AZ1 Kent finds the time to do all of this while being a single mom. Being raised by a single mom myself, I am keenly aware of the time pressure and workload it puts on her.”
The junior and senior BlueJackets of the Year were chosen by China Lake’s enlisted leadership. “It was a dauntless task,” said NAWS/NAWCWD Command Master Chief Charles Grandin. “At the end of the day each one of the Sailors, and Marine, are amazing.”