Legalman 1st Class Decora D. Hawkins – currently assigned to USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) – was named the 2018 Legalman of the Year. Legalman 1st Class Oneka L. Stegall – currently assigned to Region Legal Service Office Japan – was named the 2018 Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC) Sailor of the Year.
The Navy’s JAG, Vice Adm. John G. Hannink, was joined at the event by Command Master Chief Jondell Ritchie. Together, they recognized the six finalists for the prestigious awards, highlighting their professional and personal accomplishments, as well as their lasting, positive impact on the Navy.
“Legalmen are among the most trusted personnel serving in our Navy today,” Hannink said. “They are paralegals, yes - but they also are confidants, advisors, truth-tellers. managers and leaders. whatever you need them to be, in the right place, and at the right time.”
Hawkins – who hails from Detroit, Michigan – serves as the legal department's leading petty officer, responsible for supervision, training, and administrative tracking of three Sailors on board the busiest operational aircraft carrier in the Fleet. Hawkins also expertly manages an array of responsibilities to enhance the overall readiness of the ship.
“The nomination is a proof that persistence and hard work won't go unnoticed and that timing is everything,” Hawkins said. “The Navy has taught me to challenge myself both professionally and personally. I have a better understanding that the growth process won't always be easy, but it will be worth it.”
The Truman recently completed a deployment to the 6th Fleet area of responsibility as part of the Navy’s first attempt to demonstrate the Pentagon’s dynamic force employment concept.
“LN1 Hawkins is an exceptional Sailor who embodies a high level of commitment to the Navy's mission in every aspect of the mission,” said Capt. Nicholas J. Dienna, commanding officer of USS Harry S. Truman. “When presented with the challenges of our recent Dynamic Force Employment, she set herself apart. I emphatically endorse her for LN of the year!”
Stegall – who hails from Pensacola, Florida – is the Region Legal Service Office Japan Branch Office Guam leading petty officer. She manages the installation staff judge advocate office and legal assistance office. As the Joint Region Marianas Force paralegal, she is also responsible for military justice inputs to the General Court-Martial Convening Authority.
“I feel blessed to be considered for such an outstanding achievement in our community,” Stegall said. “When I first enlisted in the Navy, I was only 17. My life through high school was all that I knew. Serving in the Navy has enabled me to become a career professional, as well as a mother for my three children.”
Region Legal Service Office Japan provides the forward-deployed naval forces, regional, and tenant commands within the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans expert and timely military justice, legal assistance, and command service support.
“It is my honor to share with Naval Legal Service Command the phenomenal accomplishments by LN1 Stegall that we see on a daily basis,” said Capt. Florencio J. Yuzon, commanding officer of Region Legal Service Office Japan. “She is the very point of "the tip of the spear," and her nomination reflects the utmost pride and professionalism the JAG Corps expects of its best and brightest!”
The six finalists traveled to Washington, D.C. this week for the final board, and they also toured the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court, FBI Headquarters, and the Pentagon, where they met with Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Russell Smith.
In addition to Hawkins, the Legalman of the Year finalists were Legalman 1st Class Amber M. Ambrozich, USS Theodore Roosevelt, and Legalman 1st Class Chardae M. Longshore, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. In addition to Stegall, the NLSC Sailor of the Year finalists were Legalman 1st Class Bryan C. Fox, Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, and Legalman 1st Class Alec M. Jacobs, Defense Service Office Pacific.