Pacific Fleet Sailor Of The Year
Chief (select) Hospital Corpsman Corey Smith
When Hurricane Katrina struck his New Orleans home, it left Corey Smith jobless and homeless. It was 2006 and he was sleeping on couches with no idea of what to do next. The flood had taken his neighborhood and his livelihood. So Smith made the decision to sail that flood right into a Navy recruiting station.
Smith went to corpsman "A" school and then to San Diego for lab technician school. From there he transferred to Pensacola, Florida. While at Naval Hospital Pensacola, Smith deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with joint task force detainee operations and then back to NHP. Smith is currently a hospital corpsman first class on USS Essex and the Pacific Fleet Sailor of the Year.
"It feels amazing, it's humbling, and such an honor to be selected," said Smith. "The journey to become one of the Sailors of the Year has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The people I have had the opportunity to meet over the past six months have motivated, mentored, and inspired me to work even harder. I still don't think it has set in yet."
Smith started by being selected as Sailor of the Quarter and then Sailor of the Year aboard Essex. The next board took him to the ship's amphibious group and then from there up to Expeditionary Strike Group 3. Naval Surface Forces Pacific held boards over the course of a week in San Diego, and from there Smith went to Hawaii for the Pacific Fleet Sea Sailor of the Year board.
"Nothing I've ever done was done for the purposes of getting recognition," said Smith. "I just wanted to represent the people that have invested in me over the years, and that is my family, as well as my Essex family and everyone that has taken time to show me things and teach me over my career. This selection has been a complete shock."
The time frame covered work ups for an upcoming Western Pacific deployment. So for Smith, Sailor of the Year was the last thing on his mind, he said. His focus was on coming to work and making sure his department was ready for anything that could come up, and also keeping his Sailors motivated and prepared for the challenges ahead.
"I have always been of the mindset that if you take care of the people around you the results will speak for themselves," said Smith.
And they have.
"If you want to emulate what I have done, put your Sailors first, don't do your job chasing a good evaluation or promotion to the next pay grade," said Smith. "Understand that you are part of a team and will only be successful when you work together."
Smith credits his chain of command and leaders in his past with being there for him every step of the process, helping him prepare, and offering upfront and honest feedback.
"Throughout the process I was reaching back to people from my past commands, my old chiefs and people that really helped me along the way," said Smith. "I reached out and just told them thank you for their guidance and I let them know that I wouldn't have been able to do any of this without them. The conversations that stemmed from that were amazing, emotional, and really renewed my commitment to the Navy. I was proud for my ship, and so happy I was able to represent them and the hard work that we did over the course of the last year."
Although the boards were by far the most challenging part of the process for Smith, it is a journey he wishes every Sailor could experience.
"I wish every Sailor could go through the process and see exactly how much the senior leadership of the Navy cares about Sailors and their families," said Smith. "This process has been challenging and humbling. I am truly honored to represent the 154,000 Sailors in the Pacific Fleet at this level. I've been trying to share as much as I can about the process so we all have a better understanding of how it works."
Smith knows that right after all of the accolades, it is right back to work. And that makes him happy.
"By nature I am a loyal person," said Smith. "I am motivated by the work we do as the greatest Navy in the world. The Navy took a chance on me when I was homeless and jobless. The Navy has helped me be able to have a family and provide for them. I get to work with the sharpest and hardest working group of people that volunteered to serve each other and their country every day. The work we do keeps our country and families safe, and if that doesn't motivate you, I don't know what will."
What Helped Him Get Selected
*Took critical lead during five medical emergencies providing life-sustaining care
*Command Blue Jacket of the Quarter and Junior Sailor of the Quarter coordinator
*Mentored 35 Sailors in board preparation
*Authored six Sailor of the Quarter packages and three Sailor of the Year packages, resulting in five Sailors of the Quarter
*Leadership resulted in nine advancements, five Sailors of the week, 14 warfare qualifications, and seven USMAP completions
*Career Counselor and Assistant ESWS program coordinator
The other thing that motivates Smith each day is his family.
"I thank my wife and kids as often as I can, because they are the ones serving right along with me," said Smith. "The time you devote to work many instances is time away from your family. My wife, Holly, is an absolute rock star. We have two kids, Haley and Taylor, and she does such an amazing job with them. We have been geographic bachelors and apart for long periods of times and she did our cross-country move to San Diego. I am proud to be selected for this honor to in some way let her and the kids know that their sacrifices paid off."
Smith may have sailed into the Navy on the tail end of a hurricane ... but he has finally found his anchor.