CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - One service member received the honor of representing both the 1st Marine Logistics Group and the Navy during a luncheon with Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the 14-area mess hall aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 11, 2014.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Jessica Burton, administrative clerk, 1st Dental Battalion, 1st MLG, and nine Marines from varying commands were specifically chosen to speak with the Department of the Navy’s chief executive officer over lunch.
“We got together with our chain of command to discuss who would be the best person to represent us, and Burton was the sailor who came to mind,” said Chief Dell Barley, administrative chief, 1st Dental Bn., 1st MLG, of Atlantic City, N.J. “She was chosen because she’s one of those sailors who cares about customer service, volunteering, taking initiative to improve standard operating procedures, bettering the command and bettering the Navy as a whole.”
These demonstrated traits are also the reason Burton won both Junior Sailor of the Quarter for 1st Dental Bn. and for 1st MLG at the end of last year, contributing to her selection to dine with Mabus.
“Everything she’s earned in the last year, and especially in the last few months, is a reflection of how hard she works,” said Barley. “It’s so important for junior sailors to get opportunities like this.” By having the luncheon at a military dining facility, a place where most junior service members frequent, Mabus provided those selected with a comfortable environment to discuss hot-button issues throughout the Navy and Marine Corps.
“At first, the idea of talking to him was nerve-racking. In the days leading up to it, I kept thinking ‘what am I going to ask him?’” said Burton, of Anchorage, Alaska. “However, it was actually a very relaxed atmosphere. He broke the ice by talking about his personal life. He mentioned his family and what he had been up to over the past few weeks. He seemed very humbled.”
Throughout the meal, Burton and her fellow service members asked questions regarding the future of the Navy and the Corps.
“I asked him about the female uniform change for the Navy and when that might take place,” recalled Burton. “He informed us that they’re going to test it out on a handful of senior leaders. He told us it would be a while until the transition.”
Out of all Burton’s recent achievements, she said lunch with the SECNAV will be one of the most memorable.
“I think it’s a huge milestone, especially for a junior enlisted sailor,” said Burton. “Some days I question whether or not I’m pushing myself enough, but when they picked me for this, it made me stop questioning myself and realize I must be doing something right.”
Burton said the luncheon had a huge impact on her, and she is sharing everything Mabus said with her peers.
“I think it’s important to share the information, because when new policies come to light, that’s when rumors start spreading. I got the information from the actual source, so we know it’s the truth,” she said. “I’m so thankful I was able to represent 1st Dental Battalion. I think every junior sailor should strive to get an opportunity like this.”
After departing the dining facility, Mabus spoke to Marines and sailors at the base theater about sharing military knowledge with the public and how impressed he is with the Navy and Marine Corps’ readiness. He commended all service members in the audience on a job well done.