One of my first visits to the field shortly after assuming command was to the Boy Scout Summit construction site near Mount Hope, WV. Navy Seabees are assisting in the construction through a program called Innovative Readiness Training which provides real world training opportunities for our service members and units to prepare them for their wartime missions while supporting the needs of America's underserved communities. This site will be the future location for the Boy Scout Jamboree.
While there I toured several different projects underway, with nearly every reserve component providing support. Along the way, I met a representative Sailor who particularly impressed me. Engineering Aid Second Class Jessica Lyn Leonard was the lead Engineering Aid on the JTF/Beckley Summit project. At the time Petty Officer Leonard was surveying the construction of a large Amphitheater. I was amazed at her education; she started by graduating from Florida Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in drafting certification in 2005 and has since completed her Bachelors of Arts degree majoring in Religion with a double minor in Urban and Regional Planning and Business Administration. Currently she's awaiting approval of her thesis for a Masters of Arts degree in the College of Design, Construction and Planning from the University of Florida.
I chose to highlight Petty Officer Leonard because she is great example of how to balance an incredibly busy lifestyle. Why? Petty Officer Leonard is a wife, mother, a cancer survivor, a Sailor. She has volunteered 1,640 hours to local preservation societies, classrooms, and other places, using her skills as a planner, surveyor and drafter. Petty Officer Leonard is assigned to NMCB FOURTEEN DET 0614.
She was only one of the many outstanding Reserve Sailors and Marines on the mountain that day but she exemplifies the balance the reserve member brings to the fight. While receiving great training and experience that only the US Navy can provide, her personal contributions equal that of the training she receives. To the Navy, she brings her extensive education; her life experiences and lessons learned; her commitment to her family, community and country; her professional expertise and most of all, her fighting spirit.
I was honored to be invited to visit that day. I was impressed by the work that was being accomplished. I was inspired by our sailors and I am committed to my Reserve Sailors like PO2 Leonard. She is a Navy Reserve Sailor. She is a war fighter. But she is just one example. I know there are thousands more like this around the Navy Reserve and I'd encourage you to share their stories here. I'm looking forward to reading about them.
Thank you all and have a great weekend,