PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- “Ney every day.” The words are written on plaques adorning each of the main entrances into the mess decks of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4). It’s a small message, but a powerful mission statement for the Sailors of the supply department aboard.
Boxer was recently awarded the 2019 Navy Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Award in the Large Afloat category, for the first time in her 24 years of service.
Cmdr. Phoebe Tamayo, Boxer’s supply officer, equates winning a Ney award to the supply equivalent of winning the Super Bowl, and recognized the crew for their overwhelming support in making it happen.
“Winning this award, Boxer holds the bragging rights as having the best food service operation amongst all large afloat platforms for 2019,” said Tamayo. “The entire crew provided overwhelming support, constructive feedback, and high level of motivation during the Ney inspection. This was a big part as to why Boxer won this prestigious award.”
What is even less common is that two ships in the same amphibious ready group would receive a Ney award. Amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) received a Ney award as well for the Small-Medium category.
While the award is a nice gesture for a job well done, Master Chief Culinary Specialist Jade E. Metz, Boxer’s Supply Department leading chief petty officer, believes its larger purpose is to encourage high-performance and improve the quality of life for Navy personnel.
“The Ney award program recognizes excellence in food service,” said Metz. “It is one of the biggest ways that leadership within food service can give back to the junior Sailors for all their hard work.”
However, winning the award is not as simple as producing a dazzling entree for a panel of judges like a cooking show. Instead, the inspection is a gauntlet of criteria covering immaculate financial records management, sanitation, food production, training and level of knowledge, equipment operational status, and habitability efforts. All of these factors play a role in the overall grade of an inspection.
Continuing to provide quality care for Boxer Sailors and Marines takes a team of dedicated shipmates to make it happen. But not just a team, as Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Ashley Bailey, Boxer’s galley supervisor, puts it – a family. In order to keep the morale high during the long weeks and months preparing for an inspection like the Ney, the mess deck Sailors make time for each other and listen to music.
“We listen to all kinds of stuff,” said Bailey. “We listen to country and a lot of R&B. We try to find something for everybody, even the old stuff. We all sit down and eat together. We make it a point to get to know one another. We’re all family.”
The choice to treat a high-volume workplace on an amphibious assault ship as a family may seem unconventional, but Bailey believes that making the choice to dance and ‘jam out’ through exhausting workdays actually helps build focus as a unit.
“If someone starts falling asleep while trying to clean, we all might shout, ‘Hey, get up!’ And crack a joke or two,” said Bailey. “The point is that we can find [comedy] in everything, and because we are all family, we don’t want anyone to feel offended at our joking. We are all on the same team.”
This team focus is not just a short-term burst of energy in a last-ditch effort to prepare for an inspection, but a continued focus on Sailor-to-Sailor interaction over several years including those Sailors whose primary job is not in the galley.
“Food service assistants (FSAs) and mess deck master-at-arms over the past three years were part of this successful process as the food service team continues to train our newest culinary specialists and FSAs to strive for excellence each and every day,” said Tamayo.
Metz attributes this team mentality as being a major element in Boxer’s prolonged success.
“The leadership and junior Sailors are always supportive of whatever the mission is at hand,” said Metz. “The mission every day, and especially during this event, was to win and to be the best. The crew of Boxer showed, in typical fashion, our overwhelming capabilities of when we pull together, we can do anything.”
For her accomplishments in the inspection, Boxer will be receiving a trophy along with other Ney award winners during a recognition ceremony in Chicago, May 16 – 20. The trophy will then be displayed on the Boxer mess decks as a testament to what a continued focus on mission and family can truly accomplish.
For more news from USS Boxer (LHD 4), visit www.navy.mil/local/lhd4/.