MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- The job is simple enough. 12-hour shifts seven days a week. Making sure prisoners are secure and orderly. Keeping on top of the security staff's needs and qualifications. And after that making sure that everything is in line with national standards.
All this is par the course for Massiel Collado Ortiz, the Culinary Specialist who's now an award winning Corrections Specialist.
She likes her job and enjoys working hard at it, as proved by Navy Personnel Command's selection as the Navy's Corrections Professional of the Year (CPOY) for 2017.
"It was certainly a surprise when I was nominated. When my OIC informed me I had won, I looked back to make sure he was talking to me. It certainly validates all the extra hours that have been put in. Ultimately, it's great to feel like I am making my family, mentors and command proud," she said.
The American Corrections Association (ACA) sponsors the CPOY award and develops strict National standards for corrections facilities. She knows those standards well by keeping the Pearl Harbor Brig at 100 percent compliance with all ACA standards and she is personally responsible for the 98 percent certification rate of her team.
Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Collado Ortiz, born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and raised in Miami, is working outside her rate as a Corrections Specialist at Navy Consolidated Brig Miramar Pearl Harbor Detachment (NCBM PH Det.), where she serves as Brig Duty Officer and Training Chief at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Her days consist of taking care of the brig, staff and prisoners. She's in charge of prisoner welfare and administrative needs, the brig's training program and a team of other Corrections Specialists. Together, they check to make sure nothing disrupts the good order and discipline of the brig.
"It's usually pretty quiet here, but there is still plenty to do - this is a Naval brig after all," she says. "First, there are regular daily work, security checks to do, training classes, and of course, there's a bunch of regulations and procedures to go through for everything. And, definitely a lot of paperwork."
Before joining the Navy, she wanted to join as a Master-at-Arms, but she ended up becoming a Culinary Specialist instead.
"After I learned I was going to be a CS in boot camp, I knew I wanted to try to convert. I was told that after two years I can try to cross rate, but unfortunately my year group is undermanned, which means I probably won't be able to cross rate anytime soon."
Although being a Culinary Specialist wasn't part of her plan, she still enjoys her rate and prides herself in her work.
"I always heard CSs are the morale boosters," she said. "I was able to experience this firsthand while I stationed at Naval Construction Battalion One. I was part of four field-training exercises, and I remember one was rainy, practically flooding, and really cold, probably the worst weather in a while. The guys and gals manning the pits were probably expecting to eat a lame MRE at the end of the day, but we scraped a few things together to bring them hot chow instead, and those miserable faces immediately filled with smiles."
After she finished her first tour, she was ready to tackle a new challenge. She saw the opportunity to work at the Pearl Harbor Brig as a chance to do something different and to put her previous experience to work.
"It's pretty funny, before I joined the service I took a corrections class while in college," she said. "We toured the Miami Women's Detention Center and I thought to myself 'Ha, who'd want to work in corrections? I'll stick to law enforcement,' but by the end of the course I thought it could be an option for me. Since then I've earned an associate's in Criminal Justice, and I might pursue a Corrections degree too."
It's not odd at all for a Culinary Specialist to be working at the brig. Several members of her team of eight Corrections Specialists are also working out of rate.
"We're Quartermasters, Damage Controlmen, and even Sonar Technicians. It's certainly not the typical shore duty, but in the end we're all working together doing the same thing."
As with any job, things don't always go smoothly. She's been through plenty of emergencies, both large and small.
"Something can happen at any time. We just need to be able to think fast and respond," she said. "I remember there was a maximum custody prisoner, with full restraints on - that's with leg and hand cuffs - who tries to run for the door. That door doesn't open unless one of our guys in central control opens it. Not sure where he thought he was going."
Lt. Cmdr. Robert Winters, Naval Brig Pearl Harbor Officer in Charge, praised Collado Ortiz for her drive and commitment.
"The example she displays with an absolutely relentless work ethic and
boundless dedication sets the bar for excellence for all others in the
command," said Winters. "Her examples from the deckplate certainly has a positive effective on our team."
Collado Ortiz remains vigilant in her duties, and is looking forward to continuing her work and taking care of the people who need it.
Although this is one of the smaller facilities there is never any room for complacency," she said. "When you least expect it, there's something that threatens security and the safety of other prisoners, staff members and community around us. We have to interact with a lot of different people and personalities, at the end of the day we hope these men and women successfully reintegrate into the civilian society or back in the service."
"That's what it's all about, people taking care of each other."
The ACA's Military Corrections Committee is slated to officially recognize Collado Oritz's achievements during the ACA 148th Congress of Correction August 2018 in Minneapolis.
For more news from Navy Personnel Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/npc/