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USFFC Announces 2022 Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year

02 June 2023

From United States Fleet Forces Command

Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC), named Operations Specialist 1st Class Kandace Tomkin, of Commander, Task Force 80, as the 2022 USFFC Sea Sailor of the Year (SOY) and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Heather Rufohuse, of United States Marine Corps Forces Command, as the USFFC Shore SOY.The ceremony, held in downtown
Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC), named Operations Specialist 1st Class Kandace Tomkin, of Commander, Task Force 80, as the 2022 USFFC Sea Sailor of the Year (SOY) and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Heather Rufohuse, of United States Marine Corps Forces Command, as the USFFC Shore SOY.

The ceremony, held in downtown Norfolk, Va., capped off a week of rigorous interviews and team-building events focused on leadership, mentorship, and heritage.

“These highly-motivated Sailors reflect the grit, determination, tenacity, and fighting spirit that defines what it means to be a United States Navy Sailor – whose reputation gives our nation’s adversaries pause,” said Caudle. “We are extremely proud to serve alongside these Sailors who represent the best of the best our Navy has to offer.”

Although only two Sailors are named “Fleet Forces Sea or Shore Sailor of the Year,” the nine candidates on the East Coast were hand-selected from 125,000 Sailors who serve USFFC.

“After sitting down with these top performing Sailors, who represent a variety of warfighting communities and occupational specialties, I am confident our Navy will continue to be in good hands,” said Fleet Master Chief John Perryman, USFFC. “These outstanding Sailors represent their family, their mentors, leadership, and their commands. Their nomination is a testament to all who have helped shape and mold their careers.”

The ceremony focused on the finalists’ sustained superior performance and how they rose to become masters of their craft through technical, managerial, and leadership excellence.

The Sea and Shore SOYs thanked their chains of command, mentors and fellow Sailors for contributing to their success.

For Tomkin, born abroad in Weisbaden, Germany, selection as Sea Sailor of the Year was a very emotional experience.

“There's so many people [to thank] but my family, my husband, my mother, my children, are probably the most important people, because without them and their support, there's no way I'd be able to juggle everything that I do,” she said.

Rufohuse also had many she wanted to thank.

“It feels very surreal, and I can't wait to make sure that all of my juniors and my peers and everyone knows because this is really a reflection of all of our hard work,” said Rufohuse a native of Cleveland, Ohio. “It's not mine, its theirs, we’re together as a team and this would never have happened without them.”

To her fellow finalists, Rufohuse said, “Continue to be the sheepdog, because that's what leaders are, they stand next to their flock, but they're never one of them. They mentor them, protect them, guide them and lead them. And they have no problem turning on towards the wolf, taking them on and then returning to the flock, because that's what leaders do. So I have no doubt you guys are going to continue to do that.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the SOY program established in 1972 by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Whittet, to recognize the fleet’s top performing Sailors.

The U.S. Fleet Forces Sea and Shore SOY winner will be meritoriously advanced to Chief Petty Officer (CPO) and will complete CPO initiation and be frocked during their CPO pinning ceremony.

Fleet Forces Sea Finalists

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jeffrey Bentley, United States Marine Corps Forces Command
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Collin Vlazny, Navy Munitions Command Atlantic
Personnel Specialist 1st Class Kezia Thomas, Military Sealift Command

Fleet Forces Shore Finalists

Yeoman 1st Class Latoya Dobbs, United States Fleet Forces DRA
Information Systems Technician 1st Class Alec Garleb, Submarine Force Atlantic
Naval Aircrewman Helicopter 1st Class Aaron Primm, Naval Air Force Atlantic
Interior Communications Technician 1st Class Gianna D’Esposito, Naval Surface Force Atlantic

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