GREAT LAKES (NNS) -- Seaman Recruit Austin Hale, Division 060, graduated as the top Sailor from Recruit Training Command earning the Military Excellence Award Jan. 4.
Hale, from Weatherford, Oklahoma, said he joined the Navy to honor his grandfather, (retired) Capt. Douglas Hale, and others who served before him.
“I’ve always looked up to those that serve our country,” Austin Hale said. “I knew when I was going through high school that being in the military was something that I wanted to pursue as I got older. I chose the Navy over other branches of the military because my grandfather was in the Navy for 30 years and he is one of the few role models I have in my life.”
Hale, 22, is a 2015 graduate of Weather High School in Weatherford, Oklahoma and attended Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, Oklahoma for two years in pursuit of a degree in business.
Weatherford is assigned the rate of Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear).
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 him at the pinnacle of today’s newest Sailors. Hale is awarded a flag letter of commendation.
“Winning the MEA was a big deal to me because the whole time I was at boot camp I was always telling myself that I can do better than I did,” Weatherford said. “I didn’t come to boot camp with winning this award in mind, but I came looking to do the best I could.”
Weatherford said winning the MEA has inspired him and he hopes to inspire ship mates.
“It showed me that if I can push myself here that I will be able to do it in every situation I come across in the future and hopefully motivate those around me to do the same,” he said.
Hale credited his Recruit Division Commanders, Chief Engineman Amador Tovar, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Shaun Hehir, and Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Ashley Walicki for their leadership and guidance.
“All of my RDCs motivated me in their own ways,” Hale said. “Whether that was Petty Officer Hehir training my discipline as we practiced for our drill inspections, or Petty Officer Walicki telling us whoever got the highest scores on the tests gets a doughnut, or Chief Tovar pushing me daily to take charge in my division.”
Hale said shipmate Phillip Brown also provided plenty of motivation.
“My biggest motivator through boot camp would have been Seaman Recruit Brown, as we both wanted to be Recruit Chief Petty Office and he was always telling me that he was going to take my job. We were so alike and so competitive that we were always trying to one-up each other.”
Hale said becoming a leader was the hardest part of his boot camp experience.
“We had 74 recruits and getting them all on the same page at the same time was extremely difficult,” he said. “I had a few shipmates who would come to me and tell me I was doing a good job every now and then and that pushed me to keep trying harder. Leading a division of (young recruits) is almost impossible but there would be times where we all came together to do what needed to be done and when that happened, it was the best feeling in the world.”
After graduation, Hale will attend Electrician’s Mate Nuclear Field “A” School in Charleston, South Carolina. Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear) operate and maintain Naval Nuclear propulsion plants and associated equipment. They supervise and administer Naval Nuclear propulsion plant operations, and thoroughly understand reactor, electrical, and mechanical theory involved in the operation of the nuclear reactor, steam plant, propulsion plant, and auxiliary equipment.
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. More than 30,0000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/rtc/.