YOKOSUKA, Japan –
Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, announced the 2023 7th Fleet Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year (SOY) during a ceremony held onboard Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) at the Chief Petty Officer’s Club in Yokosuka, Japan, May 18.
The SOY candidates spent the week learning about naval history and heritage. In addition, they toured both the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Howard (DDG 83), forward-deployed to CFAY, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship JS Izumo (DDH-183), homeported in Yokosuka.
This year, there were three Sea SOY candidates and five Shore SOY candidates.
For Sea: Information Systems Technician 1st Class Joshua Heflin, from Omaha, Nebraska, assigned to Commander, Task Force 70; Operations Specialist 1st Class Matthew Yeager, from Fort Worth, Texas, assigned to Commander U.S. 7th Fleet; Culinary Specialist 1st Class Helen Jocson, from Cavite, Philippines, assigned to Commander Task Force 76.
For Shore: Musician 1st Class Marc Heskett, from Buxton, Maine, assigned to U.S. 7th Fleet Band; Religious Program Specialist 1st Class Diamond Cameron, from Detroit, Michigan, assigned to Commander, Commander Task Force 72; Electronics Technician 1st Class Tu Nguyen, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, assigned to Commander Task Force 73; Logistics Specialist 1st Class Annabelle Laud, from Guimaras, Philippines , assigned to Commander, Naval Forces Korea; Naval Aircrewmen Operator 1st Class Joshua Barbian, from San Jacinto, California, assigned to Commander, Task Force 72.
Candidates also participated in various events centered on professional development to help expand their leadership skills with 7th Fleet leadership, their respective command master chiefs, and JMSDF leadership and personnel.
Heskett was announced as the 2023 7th Fleet Shore SOY winner and Yeager was announced as the 2023 7th Fleet Sea SOY winner during the ceremony.
“Participating in the Sailor of the Year process was a very fun and humbling experience,” said Yeager. “It was a great time linking up with senior enlisted to get their perspective on leadership and also getting to work side-by-side with our host nation partners.”
Vice Adm. Thomas stated the operations in 7th Fleet require a level of professionalism and confidence in the Sailors under his command that they continuously meet and exceed.
“Sailors of the Year and their families are integral to flexing our fleet and increasing relationships with our allies and partners throughout an expansive region,” said Thomas. “Each of you play a vital role as we continue our work to preserve freedom and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific. Your efforts, sacrifices and continual dedication to excellence are what make us the most competent and professional force this world has ever seen.”
The Sailor of the Year program, established in 1972 by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Whittet, was created to recognize an individual Sailor who best represented the ever-growing group of dedicated professional Sailors at each command and ultimately the Navy.
Each year, every U.S. Navy ship, station, and command around the world chooses its Sailor of the Year based on leadership, professionalism, dedication, and superior performance. These selectees compete against recipients from other commands, and later higher echelons until U.S. Pacific Fleet's finest are chosen.
“For any Sailors that would like to be a part of the Sailor of the Year - my advice would be to just go for it,” said Yeager. “You know it’s an opportunity to show that you are the face for your commands and for your family and your team that supports you.”
U.S. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy’s largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with allies and partners to preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific.