NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The commander of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet is used to people being interested in what he has to say.
But when Adm. Robert J. Natter addressed the crowd of military and civilian guests in the Founder's Inn ballroom April 17, eight specific sets of eyes and ears were more interested than most.
Amid thunderous applause, Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class (SEAL) Peter Musselman II and Machinist's Mate 1st Class (SS) Charles E. Barreras went to the stage as the 2003 Atlantic Fleet Sea and Shore Sailors of the Year.
"We say every year that this is a difficult decision," said Natter. "Choosing two from the 101,000 Sailors in the Atlantic Fleet is an impossible task."
Before the announcement, nerves were high. "I sat there thinking, 'What do I do if I win? What's the protocol?'" said Barreras. When he actually heard his name he said, "I was shocked. My heart sunk into my chest."
For Musselman, who will be meritoriously advanced to chief petty officer, the initial reaction was of the future. "'I'm going to be a chief!' was the first thing I thought when I heard it."
Both Sailors of the Year come from small communities within the Atlantic Fleet family, a source of pride for Musselman. "This is a [reflection] of the special warfare community as much as myself. I'm just so proud to represent them," he said.
The announcement came at the conclusion of a week of activities designed to educate the nominees on a variety of different Navy jobs and the challenges their fellow Sailors face on a daily basis.
"This is such a big honor. I'm having a great time," said Averhart who traveled to Norfolk, Va., from USS Emory S. Land (AS 39) in La Maddalena, Italy.
Barreras will continue on to one more stage of competition for the Chief of Naval Operations Shore Sailor of the Year, which will be held in Washington D.C. in May.
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