Thank you, Mike [Rhodes].
It’s a pleasure to be here with you all of you.
On behalf of Secretary Panetta, I have the honor this morning of presenting the awards for the OSD Senior and Junior Enlisted Service Members of the Year.
In a moment we will recognize their exceptional accomplishments, but I would like to begin by recognizing all of our enlisted service members for the incredible work they do to make this Department successful.
You may not read about them every day in the Early Bird – at least that’s the way it should be – but behind the scenes, they are the unsung heroes.
We actually have quite a rich legacy in this country of noncommissioned officers. I remember when in the 1990s, the Soviet Union collapsed and we were first establishing the military-to-military relationships with the states of the former Soviet Union. The one thing they knew they didn’t have that they needed to make their military work was noncommissioned officers.
They go back a long way in our history, all the way to Jamestown, where the first militias were formed. But I have here an observation by Baron von Steuben, who helped train the Continental Army and who actually became George Washington’s chief of staff. He described the NCOs as the “backbone” of the Army. He said, “The choice of noncommissioned officers is an object of greatest importance. The order and discipline of a regiment depends so much on their behavior that too much care cannot be taken in preferring none to that trust but those who by their merit and good conduct are entitled to it.”
Today’s award recipients are worthy of that trust. They’re experts of their craft, pillars of their communities, and living examples of duty, honor, and country.
Master Sergeant Wesley Fleming, our senior enlisted winner, is the Acting Detachment Superintendent for the Armed Forces Network in Misawa, Japan—he just got off a plane—where he operates and maintains the Armed Forces Networks’ full service radio and TV station.
Previously, as the Broadcast Operations Manager, he managed all radio and television operations, including 10 hours of live on-air radio daily and 15 television products weekly.
Over the course of his career, Master Sergeant Fleming has been recognized for his work as a combat videographer, photographer, and graphic artist in overseas deployments to Kadena Air Base Japan, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kuwait, and the Horn of Africa.
But it is his leadership qualities, in the Air Force and in his community, which stand out to me.
A prolific fundraiser, Master Sergeant Fleming coordinated his wing’s overseas Combined Federal Campaign this past year, raising $170,000. He also arranged a radio fundraiser for Operation Warm Heart, raising $10,000 in emergency funds for junior enlisted base members.
As chair of the Misawa Air Base's mentoring committee, Master Sergeant Fleming scheduled and rewrote courses for 140 Air Force members that enhanced their leadership skills. He also hosted 14 Japan Air Self Defense Force tours, served as the Base’s Girl Scout liaison, and organized a local beach clean-up, air show booth, and anti-bullying program for 23 students ranging from 8 to 12 years old to support the health and welfare of the Base.
Master Sergeant Fleming, you are truly a model citizen and member of our Armed Forces, and I know that Doug Wilson, our Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, is lucky to have you as a member of the OSD Public Affairs Team.
It also gives me great pleasure to recognize our junior enlisted winner, Staff Sergeant Motavia Alston, and by the way I also want to welcome his wife Donna for being here.
This is one of the few occasions where I can honestly say that I have eaten an award recipient’s work (laughter), on numerous occasions.
Doug and Wesley – I hope you don’t take offense at this, but sometimes journalists ask really stupid questions (laughter). I saw in some of the materials about Motavia that he was interviewed about his work and the questioner [asked], “What is your favorite TV show?”
Duh, Top Chef.(laughter)
Staff Sergeant Alston enlisted in the Army in July 1994 and has completed tours in Schweinfurt, Germany, Bosnia, Fort Bragg, Nicaragua, Ft. Hood, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and Balad, Iraq, which is now closed.
In 2008, he came to the Pentagon to work in the Secretary of Defense’s dining facility.
Through his hard work and dedication, he was rapidly promoted to dining facility manager and head function chef.
Clearly Top Chef material.
He was voted Team Captain for the first-ever Pentagon Joint Culinary Arts team that won Installation of the Year honors at the 36th Annual Culinary Arts Competition.
The team won a total of 55 medals and was recognized as the best group of chefs in the military.
Those medals seem to have caught the eye of General Odierno, who hand-picked Sergeant Alston to join the Army Chief of Staff team as the Enlisted Aide. Now Ray is a big guy, he probably eats a lot (laughter), so it’s the highest compliment, and it certainly looks like he will be eating better than I will this year.
Staff Sergeant Alston, I have read that your signature dish is a pan-seared mahi mahi with a tri-colored sweet potato hash, roasted corn salsa, and asparagus with a mai tai sauce.
I want you to know that you are welcome anytime (laughter) to share that dish with me at my office.
Congratulations. And Donna, congratulations to you as well.