BETHESDA, Md. (NNS) -- Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) recently named its 2014 Blue Jacket and Sailors of the Year for 2014.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (HM1) Mark Brown, HM2 Buddhika Abeyratne, HM3 Carolyn Kraker and newly-promoted HM3 Erlande Alcius earned WRNMMC's Senior Sailor, Sailor, Junior Sailor, and Blue Jacket of the Year respectively.
Senior Sailor of the Year (SOY) is awarded to first class petty officers; SOY to second class petty officers; Junior SOY to third class petty officers; and Sailors ranking from seaman recruit to seaman, or their equivalents, are eligible for Blue Jacket of the Year.
The process of selecting honorees begins within each department where Sailors are nominated by members of their leadership team. Those nominated are then evaluated against Sailors from other departments within their directorate, and finalists go before a board of senior Sailors who judge the nominees on professional military knowledge, leadership, military bearing, appearance and current events.
"I believe my work ethic had a lot to do with my selection," said Blue Jacket of the Year (BJOY) Erlande Alcius. "I like to be hands on and actively working. I also believe my appearance had something to do with it. I take pride in making sure I look presentable in every Navy uniform I wear, even the scrubs I wear at work," said the general duty hospital corpsman who works in the Dermatology Clinic.
"On a daily basis, I bring patients back to the exam rooms and aid doctors with biopsies they might have to perform," Alcius explained. "I also aid the doctors with minor surgery and laser procedures. On certain days, the head nurse and I run the patch allergy testing the clinic performs.
"The most enjoyable thing about my job is the patient-care aspect," Alcius continued. "I get to meet different people from so many different walks of life every day, and the advice they give a junior Sailor like me is priceless. I like to ensure my patients get the best possible care, added the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, native who's been in the Navy four years.
Alcius, who earned her associate's degree last summer, said she hopes to remain in the Navy and earn her bachelor's degree.
"I always tell people to plan out your goals before you try to pursue them," said Alcius. "I am honored to be named Blue Jacket of the Year, especially at such a large command as WRNMMC. To me, the selection means that I'm a model Sailor within the command."
"HM3 Alcius' performance has been nothing short of stellar," said HM2 Kevin G. Ordiales, leading petty officer (LPO) at WRNMMC's National Intrepid Center of Excellence, who supervised Alcius when he was assigned to Dermatology Services. "She interacts with her patients and staff with a welcoming personality and utmost professionalism," he added.
Ordiales said Alcius accelerated and completed her qualifications, in addition to all required training ahead of schedule, which proved beneficial to dermatology during a personnel shortage.
"[Alcius'] exceptional clinical expertise and initiative was recognized by her leadership and [she] was selected to spearhead the Allergen Patch Testing Program that enabled continuity of care with the sudden departure of the previous program manager," Ordiales said. "In addition to her busy schedule, she unselfishly devotes her time to the community, and she was in involved in events such as the Manna Food Drive and Potomac Conservancy."
WRNMMC's Junior Sailor of the Year (JSOY) Carolyn Kraker, assistant LPO of Resiliency and Psychological Health at WRNMMC, also said the most rewarding aspect of her job is the ability to assist people.
"I work with the team at Resiliency and Psychological Health to improve the quality of work spaces at WRNMMC [using] workplace surveys, conflict resolution, burnout prevention, stress management and one-to-one involvement with staff through training, providing resources and counseling," Kraker explained.
"It's rewarding to be able to support the staff directly here at WRNMMC, and it's a much different experience than working with patients," said the native of Grand Rapids, Michigan, who's been in the Navy five years and is pursuing a master's degree in forensic psychology.
Kraker said she feels her leadership qualities were instrumental in her selection as WRNMMC's JSOY.
"I came into the Navy fairly motivated, but [leaders] worked very hard to point me in the right direction with that motivation. Not only did they give me the opportunity to succeed specifically as a Sailor, but [they] also gave me some tools for success in my civilian life as well," Kraker said.
"I also helped start a program called Operation: Tohidu, which serves active duty and veterans who have post-traumatic stress through week-long retreats at absolutely no cost to them," said Kraker.
"I joined the Navy for graduate school funding, but I chose to stay in the Navy because I love being part of something bigger and serving my fellow service members, past and present," Kraker continued.
She offers the following advice for success: "Surround yourself by the right people. No matter who you are or how motivated you may be, if the people you spend all of your time with don't share that motivation, it will be exponentially more difficult to succeed.
"Being selected as JSOY is a huge honor, and an incredible amount of encouragement to continue to work as hard as possible at being a quality Sailor and leader," Kraker continued. "Knowing that hard work is recognized and that there is leadership who support and mentor their juniors help to shape my experience and teaches me how to provide for those I work with as well," she added.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Colon, directorate senior enlisted leader (SEL) for Behavioral Health, said, Kraker is "an exceptional Sailor. Besides her normal duties, she serves as one of our directorate's career counselors. She also serves as one of our assistant directorate fitness leaders. [She] was nominated by directorate leadership because she exemplifies a well-rounded Sailor and sets the standard for others to emulate. She consistently performs above her pay grade and is an asset at any command she serves."
Sailor of the Year HM2 Buddhika Abeyratne said he feels his leadership qualities and community involvement were also important to him earning WRNMMC's SOY honors.
"I [am] non-commissioned officer-in-charge (NCOIC) in the Urology Clinic, president of the Multi-Cultural Committee, and coordinator of the Wounded Warrior Ride-2-Recovery program," Abeyratne said. "My commitment to the job and the dedication I feel got me to where I am today."
As NCOIC of the Urology Clinic, Abeyratne supervises and mentors 14 Sailors, three Soldiers and eight civilians. He also manages and is responsible for the clinic's $5.5 million equipment inventory and annual budget of $700,000. The clinic cares for more than 40,000 beneficiaries annually, making it one of the largest and busiest clinics in the Defense Health Agency, according to Abeyratne.
Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Texas, Abeyratne said he also assists in providing care to an average of 150 patients per week, as well as performing daily equipment checks. He also manages training compliancy for 17 enlisted, 18 officers and 20 civilians within the department.
"HM2 Abeyratne was nominated [for SOY because of] his professional maturity and his spirit to succeed at all presented tasks," said Army Staff Sgt. Robert Schulte, LPO of Urology, CT/Vascular, and Plastics/Reconstructive at WRNMMC.
"He embraces our mission of providing outstanding health care, mentors his subordinates towards higher levels of accomplishments, and can always be found leading from the front," Schulte added.
For his part, Abeyratne says he enjoys "taking care of Sailors and Soldiers," explaining he was motivated to join the Navy because of his father.
"[He] was a heart patient, and at the time [when I was considering joining the Navy], he was having a lot of medical issues. Both my desire to serve my country and take care of my father, drove me to join," Abeyratne explained.
With six years in the Navy, Abeyratne said his goal is to make it a career. "In January, I was selected to pursue medical studies in San Antonio [as part of a] commissioning program, which I start in August."
In addition to Schulte, Abeyratne said he's inspired by his other leaders at WRNMMC, including Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Sharon Tavares and HM1 Emmanuel Ilfraim. He said he encourages those he mentors "not to get discouraged by denial. I was denied two times for the medical commissioning program, but I kept applying and finally got it."
Abeyratne also salutes those he went up against for SOY.
"I am honored to have competed with the other 11 nominees," he said. "They deserve [SOY] as much as I do, and I want to congratulate each and every one of them.
"I love being in the Navy and it is not just a job for me; it is part of who I am," Abeyratne added.
Walter Reed Bethesda Senior Sailor of the Year, HM1 Mark Brown, also expressed pride in seeing his fellow service members succeed. "The proudest moments of my Navy career have been seeing my Sailors, and now Soldiers, achieve their goals," said the Washington, D.C. native.
Brown, LPO of Radiology at WRNMMC, said he feels "effective mentoring and being a hard charger" were instrumental in his selection as the WRNMMC Senior SOY for 2014.
As the Radiology Department LPO, Brown said he ensures his "Sailors and Soldiers are in positions to succeed, as well as meet the command's mission of providing exceptional health care to beneficiaries."
Having served 16 years in the Navy, Brown said what he enjoys most about his job is "the constant interaction [he has] with military as well as civilian personnel." He said he plans to remain in the Navy "as long as [he] continues to have fun and succeed on the job."
Brown encourages those he supervises and mentors to "stay hungry and always try to improve upon what you [think you may] already know, while seeking other opportunities to [excel]."
Chief Hospital Corpsman John Newsome, SEL for Radiology, stated of Brown, "He is a consummate professional at all times. His ability to inspire his Soldiers and Sailors is evident on a daily basis.
"Choosing him to represent our directorate for Senior Sailor of the Year was an honor that was well deserved. He embodies the Navy Core values every day and represents all the best that the United States military has to offer. It is an honor and a privilege to work with him and I see nothing but greatness in his future."
Master Chief Paul Loomis, SEL for the Directorate of Clinical Support Services at WRNMMC, agrees, adding of Brown, "[He] exudes a positive, sincere, and professional attitude at all times. He is an upright outstanding Navy petty officer of high character, as evidenced in his past performance in everything he does.
"Today, leaders come in all shapes and sizes and utilize different techniques, but there is one inescapable commonality that binds them, they set the example," Loomis continued. "Petty Officer Brown sets the example. His fellow Sailors and Soldiers are drawn to him by his personality and exceptional character traits. This is why he has succeeded in so many venues at WRNMMC and why I thought he should be nominated as Senior SOY."
For more news from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, visit www.navy.mil/local/nnmc/.