EVERETT, Washington —
Shortly after being recognized as Everett Detachment’s 2017 Junior Sailor of the Year at PSNS & IMF’s Employee of the Year ceremony, ND1 (DWS/EXW) Eric Lehman received more good news.
Four days later on April 1, he learned he had been selected as the 2017 Carl M. Brashear Foundation Navy Diver of the Year.
The Carl M. Brashear Navy Diver of the Year award was established in 2014 by the foundation that bears the late diver’s name. It provides recognition to the diver who best represents the singular commitment to excellence that is the hallmark of the Navy diving community. The award recipient must also embody the kind of courage and unwavering determination as exemplified by Boatswain’s Mate Master Chief Carl Brashear, the U.S. Navy’s first African-American master diver.
Lehman wasn’t aware that he had been nominated for that award, so he was stunned when Cmdr. Mark Schuchmann, Everett’s officer in charge, brought the dive locker together to make the announcement.
A humbling experience
“I was humbled by the selection,” Lehman said. “But my mind is always moving on to the next task at hand and, after the brief period to process the information, I was already trying to get things rolling for the next day because we had a full day of diving on Wednesday and lots of things to prepare the day before.”
Becoming an award-winning Navy diver now seems like a logical progression given Lehman’s background. He started swimming competitively at the age of nine, racked up two state swimming titles while attending Summerville High School in South Carolina, then went on to earn a conference championship at the College of Charleston.
Lehman joined the Navy after graduating from college and spending some time in the workforce. He chose the Navy since his father was a retired air controlman first class. Lehman was accepted on a dive contract, graduating from dive school in April 2013.
Diving was a natural fit
“My life has always revolved around the water, so diving was a natural fit,” he said.
Lehman did have a bit of an adjustment to make, though. Since he was a 24-year-old college graduate when he enlisted, Lehman was used to environments that encouraged asking questions and challenging ideas.
“I didn’t exactly know when to keep my mouth shut all the time,” he joked.
Lehman joined the dive locker at PSNS & IMF in 2016 but his reputation for excellence was already well-established Everett Detachment’s current diving officer, Lt. Cmdr. Tom Finley, noted that while shadowing the previous diving officer at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, expertise was needed for a special project. Lehman was requested to provide that assistance.
“After interacting with him in Portsmouth, it became apparent to me why he was requested by name,” Finley said. “His superior knowledge of the program allowed him to identify problems and formulate lasting corrective action.”
A stand-out performer
Finley emphasized this is only one example.
“Simply, he is a stand-out performer. He willingly accepts challenging assignments,” Finley continued. “He does not do this here or there. He does it every day.”
Lehman was selected as the 2017 Navy Diver of the Year based on evaluations for the previous three years. His impressive nomination package included details about numerous successful dive operations in support of Navy missions and projects for the Army Corps of Engineers. His extensive community involvement is mostly focused on children, including serving as a math and reading tutor for dozens of students and as a command coordinator for Toys for Tots.
Speaking of Master Diver Carl Brashear, the legendary diver for whom the award is named, Lehman points out that Brashear’s naval career was a “testament to what hard work and sheer determination can help you achieve.”
“Every Sailor should examine Master Diver Brashear’s storied career and apply it to their own,” he said.
Lehman will be receiving the award May 1, at the Military Divers Training Continuum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.