Military members are more than just colleagues—they are family who serve together during triumphs and hardships. At the completion Fiscal Year 2016 Chief Petty Officer 365 Phase Two, Army Sgt. 1st Class Heather Wright, Army Command Element NCO in charge, was accepted by and became an honorary member of Camp Lemonnier's Chief Petty Officers Mess, and was welcomed into the Navy family.
“I’ve met amazing people before the course, and they immediately embraced me,” Wright said. “The Navy feels like a family to me. The course was a way to challenge myself, but it was also to learn about one of my sister services. Everything I’ve learned through the whole process has been mind blowing.”
Wright’s next assignment will be in Germany, where she will be working in a joint environment. She said this experience has better prepared her to mentor and take care of her people, regardless of their branch.
“There is a good possibility I could end up with soldiers or sailors,” the Kentucky native said. “I’ve learned the Navy’s awards, evaluations and slang, so I’m more versatile. I’m already trained in their terminology, processes, regulations, traditions and history, so if I do end up with sailors, I’m going to be better able to take care of them and set them up for success. This course will make me a better leader.”
In order for Wright to participate in the two-month course, she had to meet the prerequisites and be selected to join.
“Heather worked hard to be accepted,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Tracy McDaniel, Wright’s sponsor. “It is not an easy process--if it were, more people would do it. We get to the inner most part of a person's core and then we build from there. Heather was already an E-7 and has been for five years. She sat it all aside daily, so she could learn what it meant to be a chief petty officer. We are from different branches, but I believe we have the same outlook, take care of our people, take care of the mission, take care of our families, and take care of ourselves.”
Diversification is key to successful leadership, and having an Army soldier go through the course allowed the Navy personnel to see how things were done in another branch.
“Her attitude was great,” said Chief Petty Officer Shane Sommerville, Wright’s classmate. “She’s played the role of a senior enlisted for a while and had insight on what was expected of us, and what we needed to do. No matter how stressful things got, she was always helpful and did everything she could, even though it was a different environment for her. I think it will always make this season unique. To have her perspective, influence and leadership will always be a cherished memory.”
Even though Wright belongs to the Navy’s sister service, McDaniel says she has now become family to him and this class.
“Heather became one of us,” said McDaniel. “She is our sister now and has built not only a professional network, but has built a family unit. She knows what that means to her and to us. It is our hope that we are able to continue this cross-building of our brothers and sisters in all branches of the military.”
Even though the course has ended, and she has returned to her normal job, Wright says she is on a path of lifelong learning.
“Having versatility as a leader, you want to continue to learn; you’re never going to know everything,” Wright said. “I have a network to reach back to. They are going to continue to be there to educate me. I have a family for life now. I know they are always going to be there.”