GREAT LAKES – Seaman Recruit Darlene Reinhard, a Vandalia, Ohio native, recently graduated as the top Sailor from Recruit Training Command, Division 155, earning the Military Excellence Award.
Reinhard said winning the MEA reinforces her belief in doing her best.
“It confirms to me that being a part of the Navy is exactly what I was meant to do,” she said. “It also proves to me that working hard at boot camp, and just in everything that I do, pays off. I view winning the MEA as a good way to start off my Navy career because it will always be a reminder to me to strive to be at the top.”
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. The MEA is awarded to the recruit that best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork. The award placed her at the pinnacle of today’s newest Sailors; she was awarded a flag letter of commendation for her achievements.
Reinhard, 24, said she joined the Navy with the aspiration of becoming an officer.
“The Navy provides so many great opportunities to demonstrate the leadership skills I have learned throughout my life,” Reinhard said. “Also, the discipline and teamwork that comes along with being in the world’s greatest Navy is something I have always found appealing, and I just felt I had to be a part of.”
Reinhard credited her Recruit Division Commanders, Chief Builder Michael Bettencourt, Yeoman 1st Class Ajhourni McClain and Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Kassandra Alvarez for their leadership and guidance.
“They were really exceptional RDCs,” Reinhard said. “They had a nice balance and pushed us hard in their own individual ways. I would especially like to thank Petty Officer Alvarez, and from my brother division, (Engineman 1st Class Shani) Floyd. They taught every female how to be extraordinarily strong. Also, they provided us with realistic expectations females may face in the fleet, but they empowered us and gave us the tools we need to push past any obstacle we may face.”
Reinhard also expressed appreciation for her mother, Lisa Brannon.
“She is my constant source of support and assurance in any decision that I make,” Reinhard said. “My mom is an incredible example of strength and independence that I have the privilege to look up to every day.”
Reinhard embraced the challenges of her boot camp experience.
“One of the most challenging parts of boot camp for me would probably be being a little older and having some more life experiences than some of my fellow shipmates,” she said. “I overcame it by getting to know my fellow shipmates on a personal level. Through that, I found we all had a lot of similarities and that age wasn’t really a factor after that.”
Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. About 38,000 to 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
After graduation, Reinhard will attend Naval Aircrew Candidate School in Pensacola, Florida, followed by Advanced Technical Field training required for aircrew specialties.
Reinhard graduated from Wright State University in 2016 with a degree in organizational leadership.
About 38,000 to 40,000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.