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Advancements and Promotions

Shore Sailor Of The Year

Chief (select) Hospital Corpsman Jessica Wentlent

In 2005, being fresh out of high school, Chief (select) Hospital Corpsman Jessica Wentlent left Buffalo, New York, with nothing but a suitcase and a great attitude. She was ready for something different. She was ready for something great.

More than 10 years later she is still ready for something different, something great. She was named one of four Sailors of the Year for the Navy and will be pinned as a chief petty officer in a ceremony outside the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"My first command had a profound impact on me," said Wentlent. "It was my foundation. I had a chain of command that was really supportive. My chief walked alongside us, not because she had to, but so she could get to know us and from that moment on it really changed how I looked at chiefs and what their purpose is."

Wentlent said members of her first command, at Naval Medical Center Balboa in San Diego, California, knew the true meaning of deckplate leadership and instilled a pride in her that she still has today.

"That's why it is so important that we provide sponsors and mentors to our shipmates coming from boot camp," said Wentlent. "We need to show them what it means to be a Sailor early on so they can also feel that pride."

For Wentlent, outside glory was never the goal. She said she never set out to be Sailor of the Year or to get awards and accolades; her goal has only ever been to do her best and take care of her Sailors both up and down the chain of command.

"My Sailors are the measure of my success and they are the ones that make up most of what you will read in my nomination package," said Wentlent. "My chain of command saw potential in me and they nominated me, and I'm humbled. That's what good leaders do. They recognize potential and push Sailors to different limits."

Those limits were stretched for Wentlent. As a single mom, a full-time Sailor and a student pursuing a master's degree, Wentlent has found the secret to success.

"It's really about preparation, and making sure you have a support network," said Wentlent. "That's why the family care plan is so important, it's not just a formality. It's important because my son, if I'm not there, needs to be taken care of. I'm not going to say it wasn't challenging at times, I did miss out on a couple of important things in his life, but the time I am with him, I really cherished those moments. But preparation and support is the key."

However, preparation is also what Wentlent said was the most challenging part of the Sailor of the Year selection process.

"The most stressful part is the preparation that goes into it and the hard work," said Wentlent. "But knowing that your chain of command puts in those same hours to get you there and to make sure that you're ready is humbling. They all want you to be selected and you just want to do your best."

Doing your best is not foreign to Wentlent. She's been doing that since her first days in the Navy and this recognition hasn't changed her at all.

"I haven't changed, I'm the same person," said Wentlent. "I have had a lot of great experiences, but I'm the same person. I think the greatest thing is that more Sailors will come to me and want to talk about the process or get advice, so I just have a bigger area of responsibility, I guess you could say. That's the only difference that I've noticed."
Photo collage of HM1 Wentlent.

Wentlent has also noticed how proud she has made her parents.

"They've been on their seats since this started because I had to explain the process to them, but they are so proud, they've watched me grow, especially in the Navy. They've really seen a lot of change in me as a leader, a daughter and a sister and they are so proud. I'm honored to know I make them feel that way."

And Wentlent is busy. She's on the color guard with a team of dedicated Sailors, which has shown her a different side of Navy customs and traditions. She's on the Career Development Team helping Sailors to make important decisions for their future. She's the First Class Petty Officer Association president, working with her peers to accomplish great things for their junior Sailors. She's the leading petty officer for the physical therapy department back at Naval Medical Center, Balboa. She has an 8-year-old son that gets all of her free time, she is working toward her master's degree and she has a dog.

Add to this the fact that in less than a week she will be one of the Navy's newest chief petty officers. It's okay. She's ready.