GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- Seaman Recruit Anna Benjamin, Division 053, graduated as the top Sailor from Recruit Training Command earning the Military Excellence Award on Jan. 5.
Benjamin, 18, said she joined the Navy to serve her country and aid her family.
"When I initially joined, my family was homeless," Benjamin said. "A few months before I got to boot camp, my cousins took me in and housed me. I felt if I joined the military, I could finally support my family and give back to the family that took me in."
Benjamin, 18, is a 2017 graduate of Seaside High School in Seaside, California. She was a member of the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps for three years, serving as a fire team leader and squad leader before being promoted to 1st Lt. and staff officer in her senior year.
Benjamin was assigned the rate of Operations Specialist.
The Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award is the top award presented to the No. 1 recruit of their graduating training group. The MEA is awarded to the recruit that best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork. The award placed her at the pinnacle of today's newest Sailors. Benjamin is awarded a flag letter of commendation.
Benjamin said her determination went a long way in helping her earn the MEA.
"I think I won because I had a little more motivation to win this award than the others," she said. "When I set my mind to do something, I don't let anything stop me. My dedication to my goals is what keeps me going and that's a big part of winning in any aspect in life."
Despite her sense of purpose, Benjamin said she had to overcome self-doubts and that winning the MEA came as a surprise.
"I think about the fact that I won (the MEA) every time I think that I'm a bad leader, considering I'm the division's recruit chief petty officer," Benjamin said. "Every day, I thought that I was doing everything wrong and that I would (be sent back in training). But winning this award helped shed all of those insecurities. When my recruit division officers told me I won the award, I wanted to cry and smile but we were on our way to chow, so I thought that was an inappropriate time for me to react in such a way that would make me lose my military bearing."
Benjamin credited her Recruit Division Commanders, Chief Aviation Electrician's Mate Jessica Shifflett, Logistics Specialist 1st Class Frian Tallo and Operations Specialist 1st Class Andrew Bell along with Division 054 RPOC Amy Shrum.
"I always saw her as the best recruit we had in both of our divisions so I wanted to push myself to be better than her," Benjamin said. "She was my competition and she makes me want to do better."
After graduation, Benjamin will attend the OS rating course at Training Support Center, Great Lakes. Operations Specialists function as plotters, radio-telephone and Command and sound-powered telephone talkers and maintain Combat Information Center displays of strategic and tactical information. They operate surveillance and altitude radars Identification Friend or Foe, and associated equipment. They also serve as Air Traffic Controllers for helicopters and fixed-wing
supersonic jet aircraft.
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 30,000 to 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.
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