By Alan Nunn, Recruit Training Command Public Affairs

Seaman Recruit Gabriella Diaz, a 2017 graduate of Brandon High School, graduated as top Sailor from Recruit Training Command, Division 068, earning the Military Excellence Award (MEA) in January.

Diaz was proud to be selected for the MEA. “Being awarded the MEA motivates me beyond whatever motivation I had,” Diaz said. “It means a lot to be recognized so early in my Navy career. It proves that anyone, from any background, can do great things and push themselves further than they know.”

The Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award is the top award presented to the No. 1 recruit of their graduating training group, who best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork.

Diaz, 20, said she joined the Navy to pursue a career that is challenging and meaningful.

“I feel it leads to more opportunities and experiences when you do things others are afraid to do or hold themselves back from,” Diaz said. “I wanted to have the opportunity to love my job and both help and protect others at the same time.”

Diaz drew inspiration from her mother, Maria Velarde. “My most significant motivator is my mother,” Diaz said. “She is the most selfless, independent and toughest person I know.”

Being in training at RTC during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s was the tough part of boot camp for Diaz.

“I am very family-oriented and spend a lot of time with them so it was hard to not get upset,” Diaz said. “I had to remind myself why I came and the bigger picture of what being at RTC means. It’s the starting point of a lifetime.”

She credited her Recruit Division Commanders, Chief Electrician’s Mate Susan Pavao, Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Ryan Zanol and Gas Turbine System Technician (Mechanical) 2nd Class Angel Espinoza for their leadership and guidance.

After graduation, Diaz will attend apprentice technical training and Electronics Technician ‘A’ School at Great Lakes. Electronics Technicians maintain and repair electronics equipment such as radar, communication and navigation equipment. Electronic Technicians comprise the basis of the ships’ combat systems department aboard ships and are responsible for maintaining the ships’ readiness for combat operations.