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Hinesville native recognized as Junior Sailor of the Year for Naval Medical Forces Atlantic

25 October 2023

From Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Levi Decker, Naval Medical Forces Atlantic

Yeoman 3rd Class Ayanna Smalls, a native of Hinesville, Georgia, was named the 2023 Junior Sailor of the Year for Naval Medical Forces Atlantic (NMFL) at a ceremony in Portsmouth, Virginia, on Oct. 3, 2023.
Smalls, an administrative clerk, joined the NMFL team a year ago in October 2022 and is being recognized as a standout Sailor while she serves as an administrative clerk. Her role includes organizing briefs, handling correspondence, and serving as the command master chief’s aide.  

“Earning something like this is a really good feeling,” said Smalls. “I know it’s not really that common for someone to accomplish something like this in so short a timeframe, so for me to achieve a milestone like that shows that even if you come in young, you can achieve a lot.”

Smalls joined the U.S. Navy in May 2022, and found that the skills and values needed to succeed as a Sailor are similar to those she found back home in Hinesville.  

“I developed resilience growing up in my hometown,” reflected Smalls. “I just try to persevere through how I handle situations and processing my work assignments.” 

Smalls attended Liberty County High School in 2021 and graduated from an online school and worked two jobs before joining the Navy. 

“I joined the Navy mainly for the opportunities it can bring,” said Smalls. “The financial stability that comes along with it is a perk. The Navy has been good to me for my short time in.”

Her grandmother was her primary caregiver while her parents served on active duty in the U.S. Army, and she is strongly motived by her family. 

“There are times where my sister or my niece may need me,” she explained. “I just want to be able to be there for them and support them no matter what situations may occur.” 

As Smalls and other Sailors continue to train and support the medical force, they take pride in serving their country in the U.S. Navy. 

“The fact that the Navy helped me pull myself out of a bad situation and being able to be a role model and set the example for younger women who consider joining and grow up under poor circumstances like myself is my point of pride,” stressed Smalls. “You are not your environment, and you can excel with hard work and perseverance no matter the circumstances.”

NMFL, headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, delivers operationally focused medical expertise and capabilities to meet Fleet, Marine and Joint Force requirements by providing equipment, sustainment and maintenance of medical forces during combat operations and public health crises. NMFL provides oversight for 21 NMRTCs, logistics, and public health and dental services throughout the U.S. East Coast, U.S. Gulf Coast, Cuba, Europe, and the Middle East.

Navy Medicine – represented by more than 44,000 highly-trained military and civilian health care professionals – provides enduring expeditionary medical support to the warfighter on, below, and above the sea, and ashore.

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