Navy Reserve Sailor of the Year
Chief (select) Equipment Operator Steven Butterhof
When Chief (select) Equipment Operator Steven Butterhof set off on his deployment to Djibouti with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 27 his goals were clear, complete the mission to the best of his ability and get home safe to his wife Tara.
So when the call came that he would have to fly home early, there were mixed emotions. On one hand, he did not want to leave his shipmates behind on deployment, even if just for a couple weeks. On the other hand, competing in the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) Sailor Of Year (SOY) board in Norfolk, Virginia was an incredible opportunity.
Butterhof would go on to be selected as the Navy Reserve Sailor of the Year for 2015, an honor that comes with a meritorious advancement to chief petty officer.
Butterhof, who joined the Navy in July 2007, was no stranger to the Navy. He had already served 18 years as a military child. Both his father, a mineman, and his grandfather, a hull maintenance technician, were chiefs in the Navy, and Butterhof wanted to be like them.
"I didn't join till I was 24," said Butterhof. "I went to Hamilton College to pursue a football career. After graduating at 22, I wanted two years of not being a part of anything greater than myself. By the time I turned 24, I knew the clock was ticking, and if I didn't join the Navy now, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I joined."
Little did he know that less than eight years later he'd be preparing to join the chief ranks with his father and grandfather, and under incredibly humbling circumstances.
"This entire process has been a shock," said Butterhof. "While on deployment my chief told me he was nominating me for NMCB 27 SOY. I was thankful but didn't think much would come of it. Then they called me in front of battalion physical training one morning and announced I was the SOY. I was shocked, figured it would help me make chief, and then it was back to work and I didn't pay it any more thought. Then a few weeks later during a staff call, my officer in charge announced I was the 7th Naval Construction Regiment SOY, and from there it just didn't stop: Naval Construction Group 2 was next, and then I passed a screening board to make it to the NECC SOY board in Norfolk. That was a tough board, since I was competing against two other strong first classes. After that, I passed another screening board to make it to the Navy Reserve SOY board, where I competed against five other outstanding first classes, and then I was selected for the Navy Reserve SOY. So, in all, I had three paper boards -- where the commands just looked at my package -- since I was deployed, two screening boards, and then two actual boards."
Butterhof's wife, Tara, was not surprised.
"He was chosen because he clearly cares about his work in the Navy. He takes it seriously and prepares himself for all situations," said Tara. "I am sure Steve's passion, knowledge and diligence were evident to the board members making the selection. It's been great to walk with him in this process and be able to see him recognized for the work he puts in. Becoming a chief has been a huge goal for Steve and for him to make it there in this way is really exciting!"
Although being meritoriously promoted to chief and having his dad and grandfather pin on his anchors will obviously mean the world to Butterhof, it is something else that he feels is even more rewarding.
"I have learned a lot more than I ever thought I'd know about Navy programs and doctrine that will better help me take care of my Sailors," said Butterhof. "I've also gotten some ideas on how to incorporate a regular board process at my command prior to evaluation time that I think will more empower my second and third classes and help them become even better leaders than they already are. I'm looking forward to implementing it and getting their feedback."
Butterhof admits that being a good leader in the Reserves, and a full-time civilian employee, is time consuming.
"As a civilian I work for a consulting firm designing disaster preparedness training exercises. It's a 40-50 hour a week job with a lot of travel all over the States and (in earlier years) the world," said Butterhof. "As you move up in rank and responsibility in the Navy, you have to give more time to the Navy if you want to make sure your Sailors are set up for success and your command is meeting its objectives. Prior to deployment I was the leading petty officer and the assistant officer in charge of NMCB 27 Detachment 2627 out of Navy Operational Support Center Baltimore. In between drill weekends I'd average about 20 hours of Navy-related work a week, on top of my regular civilian work week. Thankfully I work with some amazing first and second class petty officers who make my job a lot easier. They do all the things I need them to do, and they do them very well. They are a big reason I'm here."
What Helped Him Get Selected
*Conducted CPO 365 Training
*FCPOA Vice President
*Conducted record reviews for 14 members of his squad resulting in the discovery and correction of 14 missing evals and 24 missing awards.
*Authored 12 awards resulting in three NAMs, four LOAs and one BJOQ.
*Mentored eight Sailors and helped them earn advanced NECs and two were selected for advancement.
There are two things Butterhof recommends to those with hopes of following in his path.
"First, take the hard jobs, but ultimately make sure you do what you love in the Navy. Don't volunteer for a big collateral duty that genuinely doesn't interest you. If you're on the fence about it, then give it an open minded shot. But, mostly, do the primary and collateral duties that you want to do, because if you love what you do you will be successful and excel, period. Secondly, take care of your Sailors. Learn what struggles they may have and find ways to resolve them. It may just be a simple administrative issue, but if you take care of them, you will earn their respect and they will, in turn, give you the loyalty and influence that you need to be a good leader."