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NEWS | July 15, 2021

NSWC Dahlgren Division Contracting Specialist Views Work as a ‘Personal Mission’

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

There is a saying that goes “We work to live, not live to work.” Wherever you work – whether inside the gates at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) as an active duty sailor, civilian employee or contractor, at home as a stay-at-home parent or doing something else entirely – is your work more than just work? For contracting specialist Yuleiny Garcia Contreras, her work at NSWCDD is a personal mission.

Perhaps unlike many of her colleagues, Garcia Contreras did not grow up in King George, or even the United States. The Colombian native immigrated to the United States in 2013 after marrying a former U.S. naval officer in her home country.

“In other countries, you hear positive and not-so positive things about the United States, but when you get here, you experience everything firsthand,” said Garcia Contreras. “I fell in love with the country. If you are a person that wants to be successful, you can do it.”

Immigrating to the United States did not come without challenges. According to Garcia Contreras, her first task when she arrived was learning English. “I didn’t speak any English when I got here. I started learning English, and I decided to go to a university here,” she explained. “I did and in 2018, I had learned enough and I decided to go for it. It was a big challenge because I’m still learning the language. It is an ongoing process.”

One of the classes Garcia Contreras took while attending Germanna Community College was a history class that encouraged her to learn more about becoming a U.S. citizen.

“I just wanted to do it. I am now a proud citizen of the United States. It is an honor,” she said. “I am proud, not just to be a U.S. citizen, but also working with the Navy. What we do is important. Even though we are civilians, it is a duty as well… We are not in the field, but it feels like a great responsibility to have.”

In addition to her classes to finish her degree and classes for the citizenship class, Garcia Contreras stands out as a leader in the contracting department. Linda Fowler, former NSWCDD division head of contracting, has watched Garcia Contreras grow during her time as an intern through the Naval Acquisition Development Program.

“She strives to do her very best… and is very dedicated to her job and work,” said Fowler. “Even during her [certification] classes… she takes ownership of her work and makes sure it gets done.”

Garcia Contreras is the first NSWCDD employee to be nominated for the Latina Style Meritorious Service Award, a recognition that honors men and women in the military or civilian workforce that are setting good examples and are good role models for the Latina community.

“Even though she is an intern, she has helped others [whether other interns or those sitting around her in the contracting office]. Even when she had only been in the program for a year, she was helping to train others. Mostly, it’s her willingness to be a leader so early in her career and being that example. She is just willing to help anyone who asks [however] she can.”

The Latina Style Meritorious Service Award is an external award at the Department of Defense level, awarded to senior interns.