NSTC Names Instructors of the Year

Story Number: NNS181210-02Release Date: 12/10/2018 11:05:00 AM
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By Scott A. Thornbloom, Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs

GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) has named their 2018 Instructors of the Year (IOY).

The 2018 NSTC IOYs are: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jason Potts, named Officer IOY from Officer Training Command (OTC) in Newport, Rhode Island; Senior Chief Aviation Air Traffic Controller Jacqueline Williams is the Senior Enlisted IOY, also from OTC; the Mid-Grade Enlisted IOY named is Equipment Operator 1st Class Joseph Sperry; and the Junior Enlisted IOY is Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Racquel Gunnell. Both Gunnell and Sperry are recruit division commanders (RDCs) at Recruit Training Command (RTC), Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois. In a new category this year, NSTC also has named Navy Lt. Tyler Arp the Naval ROTC Officer IOY. Arp is a Naval Science Instructor (NSI) at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The Military Instructor of the Year program is a great opportunity for leadership to recognize the best that their commands have to offer, when it comes to their Sailors and officers and the outstanding work that they are accomplishing,” said NSTC Command Master Chief Jimmy Hailey III, who headed the board that selected this year’s top-teaching candidates.

NSTC is commanded by Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, headquartered at Naval Station Great Lakes. Bernacchi and his staff oversee 98 percent of initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes OTC, RTC and NROTC.

Lt. Arp, 30, from McGregor, Texas, graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics.

A submariner, he graduated from Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC) and Prototype training at Nuclear Power Training Unit Ballston Spa. He first submarine duty was aboard Los Angeles attack submarine USS Hampton (SSN 767) in February 2013. He was named the 2015 Squadron 11 Submarine Junior Officer of the Year for his service on Hampton.

In April 2016, the Texan returned to his home state and reported to the NROTC unit at the University of Texas at Austin for duty as a naval science instructor. During 2018, Arp served as the operations officer for Career Orientation and Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) West, coordinating the summer training of 509 midshipmen participating in Fleet Aviation, Surface, and Submarine training in San Diego. For that summer training and his accomplishments as an NROTC NSI at UT, the lieutenant was named the first NSTC NROTC Officer Instructor of the Year.

“I feel honored and humbled to be considered as one of the best instructors within the NROTC-Domain,” Arp said. “I know many instructors throughout the NROTC program, and I hold them in high regard for their instructional ability and technical expertise.”

As an NROTC instructor, Arp instructs and molds college students into midshipmen, Seaman-to-Admiral officer candidates (OCs), and Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program (MECEPs) who eventually will be commissioned as new Navy ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants.

“I instruct students participating in the University of Texas Naval ROTC program in Naval Ship System I (Naval Engineering Systems) and Naval Systems II (Naval Weapon Systems)," Arp said. "Occasionally, University of Texas students not participating in the NROTC program will take the naval science courses for their own general interest.”

Arp provides classroom-based instruction to students taking the Naval Science Curriculum offered by the university and required for commissioning through the Naval ROTC program. Outside of the classroom, he said NROTC instructors provide training and instruction to midshipmen, OCs and MECEP students that helps prepare them for service in the Navy and Marine Corps.

“The outside-of-the-classroom instruction includes activities such as preparing students for technical interviews for acceptance into the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (NNPP), supporting NROTC Leadership Lab classes, coordinating and evaluating the physical development of midshipmen through the physical fitness program, and mentorship of midshipmen as they practice leadership within the Battalion Organizational Structure,” said Arp.

Potts, 38, originally from Las Vegas, has been in the Navy for more than 20 years. He said he is proud to be part of a school house, command and accession training at OTC.

“I’m humbled by this accolade and greatly appreciative of my teammates' support and the chain of command's efforts in fostering a true meritocracy,” he said.

Potts instructs the roughly 470 newly-commissioned limited duty and chief warrant officers who pass through the Limited Duty Officer/Chief Warrant Officer (LDO/CWO) Academy doors each year.

“They are the driving force behind the staff’s high level of performance," said Potts, who has been stationed at OTC for two years. "Their engagement and feedback demand our absolute best every single day.”

Potts, who attended the LDO/CWO Academy in May of 2011, said the students’ experience, talent and tacit knowledge demand the utmost of instructional ability.

“Challenging, humbling and rewarding are the best words to describe an LDO/CWO Academy staff assignment," Potts said. "The opportunity to engage, train and learn from the fleet’s top talent, both staff and student, is an absolute honor. I can't thank LDO/CWO enterprise leadership enough for the opportunity to serve in this capacity.”

Williams, 43, from Indianola, Mississippi, called it a tremendous honor to have been selected as the NSTC Senior Enlisted Instructor of the Year.

“I am certain the talent level of instructors across our domain is very high, and I will continue to work hard to represent them well," said Williams. "It is a great privilege to have such an impact on the future leaders of the Navy, and I am humbled to be recognized for my efforts.”

As an RDC, Williams instructs, molds, guides and turns civilians into new Navy officers. She has instructed at Officer Candidate School (OCS), Officer Development School (ODS) and the Direct Commission Officer Indoctrination Course (DCOIC).

“I make a genuine effort on a daily basis to lead and mentor each person I encounter," she said. "There is nothing more gratifying than to know that great leaders are ready to assume the watch.”

Williams added she and the other more than 30 RDCs handle every aspect of "sailorization," militarization, leading, and mentoring.

“I train civilians and develop them into the Navy's newest warfighters by instructing officers and officer candidates in military, drill, and physical training requirements," said Williams, who has been at OTC for 19 months. "I demonstrate proper procedures to keep clothing, equipment, barracks and new officers and officer candidates in smart, ship-shape condition. I am readily available to answer any questions or concerns and provide mentorship from a senior enlisted leadership prospective.”

Sperry, 28, from Peoria, Illinois, graduated from the Navy’s only boot camp, RTC, in 2009. He has been an RDC at RTC since 2016 and said he is very proud to be named the NSTC Mid-Grade IOY.

“I’m honored to have been put up for this award and very proud to have been chosen as Mid-Grade IOY," he said. "I believe, at RTC, we have some of the best POs (petty officers) in the Navy, and to compete with them helps drive me every day.”

This past year, Sperry has been an instructor at the RDC “C” school at RTC, where he trained the Sailors who become the next RDCs, who train recruits and mold civilians into Sailors.

“As an RDC, you transform volunteers into highly-professional Sailors through screening, equipping, education, training, and attitudinal development,” he said. “You instill in them and continually reinforce the highest standards of honor, courage, and commitment, with a basic professional background in support of fleet requirements.”

He credits Chief Electrician’s Mate Joseph Lima, an RDC at RTC who was named the NSTC Mid-Grade IOY last year, with his success.

“My mentor Chief Lima won Mid-Grade Instructor of the Year last year, and we competed with each other all year," he said. "Chief Lima pushed me last year and set me up for success this year.”

The equipment operator, who has been assigned to several Seabee construction battalions, said being an RDC, to him, is the most important job in the fleet.

“Every job is important, but without civilians becoming Sailors, we have no Navy," Sperry said. "That is why 14-16 hour days, seven days a week is worth it to me. I give 100 percent to every recruit that comes to RTC, because I would never want them to think I didn't care about their development as a Sailor. Developing Sailors motivates me more than anything else in the Navy. Receiving an award like this is amazing, but if next year I get to guide someone else to this award, then I’ll really feel I’ve done my job.”  

Gunnell, 31, from Los Angeles, said being named the NSTC Junior Enlisted IOY is a huge honor.

“I was a little shocked at first, but I could not be more humbled receiving this award at the ‘Quarterdeck of the Navy.’”

Like Sperry, Gunnell credits her leadership for the selection.

“I think I was selected because I have one of the most amazing leadership teams in the entire fleet," she said. "RTC constantly pushes you to be better, and in general, a more rounded Sailor. The teamwork and overall support is unmatchable here, and I truly owe my selection to them.”

She called being an RDC for the Navy’s newest Sailors the greatest job in the Navy.

“I know it sounds like a generic answer, but being a part of the foundation of building a Sailor could not be more rewarding," said Gunnell. "To know you’ve had a lasting positive impact on someone is a true privilege.”

Gunnell said as an RDC she provides basic military training to recruits, from personnel inspection, bunk and locker lay out, firefighting, line handling, weapons turnover and basic military skills. And she remembers very well being a recruit herself at RTC in 2008.

“Being back here means I can pay back my RDCs and instructors the amazing ethics they instilled in me to instill into our future Sailors,” Gunnell said. “I want recruits to take with them honor, courage and commitment. I then want to instill in them accountability, initiative, toughness and integrity. And hopefully something that can perhaps save a life in the fleet!”

NSTC oversees the initial officer and enlisted accessions training for the Navy. This includes RTC at Great Lakes, made up of more than 870 RDCs and instructors who oversee and train more than 39,000 recruits annually. There are NROTC units at more than 160 colleges and universities across the United States, with more than 5,900 midshipmen enrolled annually who are taught, guided and molded by more than 500 Navy and Marine Corps officer and enlisted instructors. OTC annually graduates more than 2,900 students per year under the instructing guidance of 39 RDCs, Marine Corps drill instructors and technical trainers. NSTC also oversees Navy Junior ROTC and Navy National Defense Cadet Corps (NNDCC) citizenship development programs at more than 600 high schools worldwide.

For more information about NSTC, visit http://www.netc.navy.mil/nstc/ or visit the NSTC Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/NavalServiceTraining/.

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For more news from Naval Service Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/greatlakes/.

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