CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A pair of sailors was presented Navy-wide awards by Brig. Gen. Steven R. Rudder for their service and conduct during a ceremony Aug. 2 at Building 1 headquarters on Camp Foster.
Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph S. De La Cruz was recognized as the 2013 Independent Duty Corpsman of the Year for the Navy during the ceremony, and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael J. Pena received the 2012 Robert Graham Enlisted Award for his performance in support of the Naval Aerospace and Physiology program.
De La Cruz is a corpsman with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Pena is an aeromedical safety corpsman with MAG-36, 1st MAW, III MEF. Rudder is the commanding general of 1st MAW, III MEF.
De La Cruz demonstrated the kind of leadership and work ethic the Navy aims to exemplify, according to his award citation. His achievements have significantly contributed to the provision of operational medicine, combat readiness and the overall health of sailors and Marines in his unit.
“Awards such as the IDC of the Year solidify (the fact) that these sailors are truly doing the best they possibly can at their jobs,” said Master Chief Petty Officer David D. Jones, the command master chief of 1st MAW.
Independent duty corpsmen are credentialed medical providers, able to receive patients, prescribe medication and perform minor operations, among other duties.
“These sailors are a vital part of the fleet force, fulfilling their duties on ships and dry land alike,” said Jones.
De La Cruz plans to keep on the path that has brought him success.
“I’m still in a state of shock … I know I couldn’t have done it without the help of fellow corpsmen,” said De La Cruz. “But I’m nowhere near done; I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
Pena earned recognition for his role in leading, mentoring and training over 1,600 members of MAG-36, as well as helping revive a screening program for water survival training, according to the citation. His contributions positively affected the command’s ability to maintain expeditionary readiness.
Corpsmen are responsible for the safety of every service member within their command, according to Pena.
“We have to identify all of the hazards in a given situation and find ways to eliminate or minimize those risks,” said Pena.
Public recognition of service members’ work plays an important role in rewarding good Marines and sailors and encouraging all to do their best.
“When service members earn awards like this, it keeps everything together,” said Jones. “These awards commend those who worked hard and encourages others to become the best at whatever it is they do.”
The 1st MAW leadership hopes the recent trend of awards and excellent service continues, according to Jones.
“It shows that (the sailors) are truly doing the best they can at their jobs and as service members, as well as demonstrating maturity and growth in their technical skills,” said Jones.