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METC instructor is top Sailor for 2012

By Larry Coffey | Navy Medicine Education and Training Command Public Affairs | Dec. 3, 2012

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON — The San Antonio-based Navy Medicine Education and Training Command, responsible for Navy Medicine's medical and operational training programs, announced the selection of its 2012 Sailor of the Year Nov. 20.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (Fleet Marine Force/Surface Warfare) Jonathon T. Birkle, a team lead instructor at the Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, was selected to represent NMETC's 21 nation-wide commands, activities and detachments in the upcoming Navy Surgeon General's Navy Medicine Sailor of the Year competition in Washington, D.C.

"I was very humbled by my selection," said Birkle, a Wheatland, Wyo., native. "I also felt like, 'Wow!' All my hard work isn't going unnoticed."

Birkle teaches the Hospital Corpsman Fundamentals of METC's joint Navy and Air Force Basic Medical Technician Corpsman Program. As a Navy hospital corpsman instructor at the tri-service METC, Birkle is assigned to the Navy Medicine Training Support Center, an echelon-4 command reporting to NMETC.

He competed against Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Shaun Kestner, administrative directorate leading petty officer for Navy Medicine Professional Development Center at Bethesda, Md.; and Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF) Roy Saiz, an instructor for the Independent Duty Corpsman program at the Surface Warfare Medicine Institute at San Diego, who represented the Navy Medicine Operational Training Center at Pensacola, Fla. Like NMTSC, NMPDC and NMOTC are echelon-4 commands reporting to NMETC.

NMETC's new SOY said he felt he was selected in part because of his leadership approach.

"You have to lead from the front, and get down and dirty with your Sailors," he said.
"Every Sailor is different, so you have to learn who your Sailors are, inside and out. You can't demand respect. It has to be earned through actions and the example you set."

Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (FMF) Shanon Best, NMTSC command master chief, said Birkle's leadership as a team lead instructor was very instrumental in his selection as SOY.

"HM1 Birkle has proven to be a top-quality leader," Best said. "He always shows a genuine concern for his Sailors and their professional growth. His take-charge attitude and dedication to job accomplishment have consistently produced positive results. He is truly deserving of being named NMETC's Sailor of the Year."

NMETC's SOY competition was held at NMETC headquarters at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston where command master chief petty officers from each finalist's command conducted a SOY selection board and process.

Birkle said he got to know the other two finalists during the three-day process.

Birkle is a dedicated family man - a father of 10- and 12-year-old sons, Jonathan and Austin, respectively. He said his wife, Bonnie, has been "his rock" throughout his career.

"When I left for boot camp, my wife had to take care of my two kids by herself. My career in the Navy has taught her to be very strong and independent. From 2003 to 2006, I was home a total of eight months. She is right there with me through thick and thin. I would not be anywhere without her."

While Bonnie Birkle provided support from home, Birkle said the NMTSC chief petty officers helped him prepare for the SOY board; conducting several mock boards and helping him fine-tune his presentation.

"They were preparing me to answer the questions, 'Am I ready to be a Chief,' and 'Can I function as a Chief in the Navy.'"

For the NMETC SOY selection board, the answer was a resounding "Yes."

NMETC is the sole point of accountability for Navy Medicine education and training and is part of the Navy Medicine team, a global health care network of Navy medical professionals around the world who provide high-quality health care to more than one million eligible beneficiaries. Navy Medicine personnel deploy with Sailors and Marines worldwide, providing critical mission support aboard ships, in the air, under the sea and on the battlefield.