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Sailors and Marine of the Year honored

Three enlisted men at Whidbey Naval Air Station were honored Thursday with Shore and Sea Sailors and Marine of the Year awards. All of them said they were just doing their job.

Receiving the Navy League and Rotary awards at a noon luncheon ceremony were Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Girard, Sea Sailor of the Year, Petty Officer 1st Class James Whitworth, Shore Sailor of the Year, and Sgt. Don Pulliam, Jr., Marine of the Year.

The celebration also marked the United States Navy’s 228th birthday.

Oak Harbor Navy League President Larry Munns, former commanding officer of Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, said all the sailors at Whidbey were great.

“I wish we could give this award to all of them,” he said. His message to the honorees was, “Oak Harbor salutes you.”

Sea Sailor of the Year, Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Girard, is a storekeeper for Maritime Patrol Squadron One (VP-1), but said his job is hard to describe.

“Ask him what he doesn’t do,” his wife Carol Girard said.

“I do anything I can in the way of helping or mentoring my shipmates,” Brian Girard said.

Girard joined the Navy in 1991 after graduation from high school in Manchester, N.H., inspired by Operation Desert Storm.

“It was the deciding factor,” he said. “There was no sales pitch needed.”

Girard distinguished himself early in his career. After graduating fifth in his class from Aviation Storekeeper “A” school he selected choice orders to Sigonella, Italy.

Girard has been with the Screaming Eagles of VP-1 since August of 2001. In June 2002 he provided direct support for Operations Enduring Freedom and Southern Watch. He was home only two months when the squadron redeployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Carol remembers the day he left exactly — it was March 4, her birthday.

Married seven years, Carol is her husband’s biggest supporter.

“I’m always proud of him,” she said. “It’s important work being in the Navy.”

The couple have two children, Xavier, 6, and Trevor, 2.

Girard also serves his community, volunteering in Xavier’s classroom at Crescent Harbor Elementary, and participating in beach cleanup and litter patrols around the Seaplane Base.

Sea Sailor of the Year, Petty Officer 1st Class James Whitworth, was excited about winning the award, and said he had no idea he was in the running before he was interviewed by the selection board.

“I just come to work and do the best job I can,” he said.

Whitworth is also a distinguished storekeeper, graduating as an honor student from Storekeeper Class “A” school with a 98.4 percent.

He quickly advanced to Third Class Petty Officer through the Accelerated Advancement Program.

The Whitworths are a Navy family. His wife Karen Whitworth is a chief petty officer Personnelman at Whidbey. The couple met while on duty in Italy, and have been married 10 years. They have two children, Tyler, 9, and Courtney, 8.

“I’m excited to see him be recognized for the work he does,” Karen Whitworth said. “He takes his job very seriously.”

Whitworth provides supply support for the bachelors’ quarters on base.

“I feel good that I can provide support for those out in the fleet,” he said. He makes sure they have a comfortable place to call home when they return.

Whitworth volunteers as a Partner in Education and as a Cub Scout den leader for pack 76.

The Whitworths will be leaving Whidbey in December, as James will report to the USS Detroit in New Jersey, and Karen will transfer to personnel support in Pennsylvania.

Whitworth said he will miss Oak Harbor, which he feels is very supportive of the Navy.

“We love it here. The community is close knit, and we feel safe. It’s a great place for kids.”

Marine of the Year, Sgt. Don Pulliam, Jr., is an EA-6B “O” Level Electricians instructor. He teaches the support crews how to keep the Prowlers flying.

“This is a great honor,” he said of the award. “I appreciate just being nominated, let alone selected.”

Pulliam has received other award since joining the Marines in 1997. While deployed to Iwakuni, Japan, Pulliam was promoted to his current rank after winning the First Marine Aircraft Wing Meritorious Sergeant board.

He attended the Corporals Leadership School and the Sergeant Course, and was received the “Gung Ho” award for his outstanding leadership and motivation. Most recently, he was chosen Marine of the Quarter, second quarter 2003, for Naval Aviation Maintenance Training Unit.

After re-enlisting in 2002 he reported to Basic Parachutist School in Fort Benning, Ga., and came to NAS Whidbey in May 2002 as an electricians instructor, teaching both Navy and Marine Corp personnel.

Pulliam is working toward a degree in professional aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and hopes to become an officer.

Pulliam is married to his high school sweetheart, Stephanie, to whom he gives a lot of credit for his successful career to date.

“Without her support I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Pulliam has volunteered with Oak Harbor’s Operation Decoration and Toys for Tots and plans to mentor middle school students.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611

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