NMETLC NAMES 2017 Sailor of the Year

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By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael J. Lieberknecht

SAN ANTONIO (Nov. 17, 2017) Navy Medicine Education Training and Logistics Command (NMETLC) announced Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Patricia Lopez-Cruz, as Sailor of the Year (SOY) for 2017.

Lopez-Cruz is a Hospital Corps instructor at the Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) who represented Navy Medicine Training Support Center (NMTSC) at San Antonio, Texas.

The process of selecting the SOY began Monday, Nov. 13, when NMETLC gathered five of the top performing Sailors representing NMETLC headquarters and its four Echelon-4 subordinate commands.

The week-long meetings and events were held in San Antonio, Texas, home to NMETLC headquarters, and also served as a way for the SOY candidates to reflect on Navy leadership and heritage while NMETLC leaders met face-to-face to deliberate their choice for the top candidate.

The SOYs and their sponsors went on tours to naval museums earlier in the week, including a visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. While visiting, the five SOY candidates and their Command Master Chief or Senior Enlisted Leader who served as their sponsor, navigated long, stretching halls of displays that told the story of the war in the Pacific during WWII.

The tour was designed to remind the SOY candidates of the historical implications of being a Sailor today.

"It was a really great reminder of why we are here and why we need to remain driven about what we do every day in the Navy," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Alejandra McKeever, SOY representative from Naval Medical Logistics Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Thursday, Nov. 15, marked the final test for the candidates - an oral board administered by all of the SOY sponsors. The Sailors had their own way of dealing with nerves, but distracted themselves by looking after each other's uniform appearance. Then, one by one, they presented themselves to the board and answered questions to the best of their ability. These interviews were taken in consideration with each Sailor's submission package during later deliberation by the board.

That night, the candidates were treated to a special dinner sponsored by members of a mortgage lending company for veterans.

Chris Cano, a former Nuclear Machinist's Mate of 10 years and mortgage company representative, expressed his love for giving back to the Navy.

"I was an SOY at one of my commands, and I love being around these Sailors who are going through the selection process," said Cano. "They have earned the recognition from their leaders who notice the amazing work they are doing. They need to ride that momentum and remember people are seeing them and believing in them."

SOY board member and NMETLC Command Master Chief Mitchell Sepulveda also took a moment to share his feelings about the candidates, while reminding them of their future responsibilities.

"From the bottom of my heart, I am extremely blessed to be around this group," said Sepulveda. "And remember, one day you will be our reliefs."

The SOYs gathered the next day for the announcement during the NMETLC SOY ceremony. An empty auditorium soon began to fill with officer and enlisted Sailors from the San Antonio area, waiting to see who would represent them as Sailor of the Year.

Rear Adm. Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, NMETLC commander, was introduced early-on to speak and remarked, "I am so proud of this group of leaders and what you have achieved. This is an amazing group of emerging leaders, and the SOY program allows us to recognize that."

From the stage, McCormick-Boyle and Sepulveda brought the week to a close with the announcement of Lopez-Cruz as Sailor of the Year. Disbelief overcame Lopez as she humbly approached the stage and received the award.

"I saw why all of the other candidates were here," said Lopez. "And we all performed great. I didn't think I would get the selection. This whole week, my favorite part was the experience of meeting the other candidates."

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Corey Nasfell, SOY representative from Navy Medicine Operational Training Center (NMOTC), in Pensacola, Florida, said, "There was great competition, and I have nothing but respect for the other candidates. I came out here to win, but after the announcement, I'm focusing my attention to the next step in my career."

Lopez will now travel to the Washington, D.C. area to compete against the Navy Medicine East, Navy Medicine West and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) headquarters SOYs for Sailor of the Year for Navy Medicine.

"I just welcome it, and I'm totally going to try to represent both my command and NMETLC," Lopez said. "Mostly, I'm just going to try to be myself!"

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