PORT HUENEME, Calif. –
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Cleston Williams has his hands full at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), serving as the command’s Underway Replenishment (UNREP) In-Service Engineering Agent leading petty officer, drug and alcohol program advisor, master at arms, financial specialist, sexual assault prevention and reporting military lead, and assistant command fitness leader.
He takes all his responsibilities in stride, with an efficiency and confidence that helped earn him NSWC PHD’s Sailor of the Year accolade for fiscal 2021.
That win enabled him to recently represent not only NSWC PHD but all 10 warfare centers during the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Enterprise Sailor of the Year selection, which took place April 22 at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
Earlier that month, Williams was named the Sailor of the Year for the warfare centers, an honor for which he received a congratulatory phone call from Vice Adm. William Galinis, commander, NAVSEA.
“BM1 Williams is a motivated and well-rounded Sailor,” said Senior Chief Sheri Ann Hayase, the command’s new senior enlisted leader. “His personality and demeanor are contagious here at the command, and we are so proud of his accomplishments. He is a truly deserving Sailor who leads from the front.”
He went on to Washington, D.C. to compete as one of five active duty finalists for the NAVSEA Enterprise Sailor of the Year honor through additional board interviews.
“I feel truly blessed to have made it this far,” Williams said after the finalists were announced.
“My whole career I have just been head down, doing the job and not looking for any recognition,” Williams said. “So, for this to happen and the commander of NAVSEA to call and speak highly of my accomplishments, the feeling really is validating. It put a smile on my face.”
He was joined in the nation’s capital by: Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Cole Elliot, Norfolk Naval Shipyard; Navy Diver 1st Class Nicolas Lee, Navy Experimental Diving Unit; Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Alexei Litovtchenko, Commander, Navy Regional Maintenance Center; and Fire Controlman 1st Class Adriane Watson, Conversion and Repair, Newport News.
During the ceremony, all finalists received a Navy commendation medal signed and presented by Galinis. Watson, the only female active duty finalist, was named the NAVSEA Enterprise Sailor of the Year.
She will go on to compete for Sailor of the Year at the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) level, representing all Navy shore duty commands. As part of the OPNAV Sailor of the Year selection, the winner will be meritoriously promoted to the rank of chief petty officer.
Williams joined the U.S. Navy in November 2010 and NSWC PHD’s UNREP division in May 2019. He previously had twice been named a Sailor of the Quarter at NSWC PHD, and had a great deal of support when it came time to submit his nomination for the command’s Sailor of the Year.
Former NSWC PHD Senior Chief Ernest Johnson, who retired earlier this month, was a member of the board that selected Williams as Sailor of the Year both at the command level and for all 10 warfare centers.
“He’s a hard-charging Sailor who’s going to do great in the fleet,” Johnson said, prior to his retirement. “We’re trying to pick the next leaders of the Navy. I expect them to be a professional when standing in front of their Sailors before I promote them to the next level.”
Williams also had the staunch support of his commanding officer, Capt. Andrew Hoffman, during all levels of the Sailor of the Year selections.
“BM1 Williams consistently demonstrated superior performance throughout Fiscal Year 2021,” Hoffman wrote in Williams’ nomination for Sailor of the Year at the larger warfare centers’ enterprise level. “He continues to outshine his peers, further proving his immediate recommendation for selection to chief petty officer as he is already performing duties as such.”
Prior to the April 22 ceremony, the five active duty finalists, along with the five Navy reserve member finalists, spent two days meeting NAVSEA and Navy senior leaders and visiting locations around the Washington D.C. area, including the National Archives, the Navy Memorial and the Navy History and Heritage Museum.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy John Whittet established the Sailor of the Year award program in 1972 to recognize individual Sailors who best represented the growing group of dedicated professional Sailors at each command and ultimately, the Navy.
Initially, the program recognized only Atlantic and Pacific Fleet Sailors. Within 10 years, the Sailor of the Year program expanded to incorporate shore commands and Navy Reserve Sailors.