GREAT LAKES (NNS)—Seaman Recruit Martine Caponera, Division 405, graduated as the top Sailor from Recruit Training Command, earning the Military Excellence Award on Oct. 12.
Caponera, from Fountain Valley, California, was inspired to join the Navy after volunteering with Compass 31, an organization based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that works to bring females out of human trafficking. “I joined the Navy to be a part of the greater cause in helping those in need,” Caponera said. “I witnessed so much pain and suffering, and the Navy provides me the opportunity to finish nursing school and go forth and help those people as well as others all around the world.”
Caponera, 22, is a 2014 graduate of Fountain Valley High School in Fountain Valley, California. She was employed as a restaurant manager in Newport Beach, California. Caponera is assigned the rate of Fire Controlman.
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. Caponera is awarded a flag letter of commendation.
Caponera said her selection as the MEA was humbling.
“There are so many brilliant, talented Sailors, not only in my division, but throughout all the training groups that I am proud to serve with,” she said. “Coming in the first day of boot camp, I had very little knowledge of the military or the customs of the military, so winning this award shows me how far I have come and how much my hard work has paid off.”
Caponera credited her Recruit Division Commanders, Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Robert Zahrn, Chief Aviation Machinist’s Mate Adam Gonzales, and Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Heather Townsend for their leadership and guidance.
“My RDCs have portrayed such incredible examples of how a Sailor should conduct themselves, always showing examples of honor, courage, and commitment,” she said. “(Chief) Gonzales’ dedication to what he does has shown me that I can do anything. His pride in being a part of this incredible organization motivates me every day and the training tools he has provided me will continue to help me succeed in the fleet.”
Caponera also said her mother has been a constant source of inspiration.
“My main sources of motivation here at boot camp were my RDCs and my mom,” she said. “As I have changed my majors and my mind over the years, my mom has been steadfast by my side, always encouraging me to do what I am passionate about. I would not be where I am today without her support.”
Caponera said the transition from civilian to basically-trained Sailor was her biggest challenge at boot camp.
“It was the culture shock of never being around the military sector before, then fully immersing myself in it through boot camp,” she said. “I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and studying every night until I was completely confident in my knowledge and ability to navigate military life.”
After graduation, Caponera will attend “A” School at Great Lakes. Fire Controlman provide system employment recommendations; perform organizational and intermediate maintenance on digital computer equipment, subsystems, and systems; operate and maintain combat and weapons direction systems, surface to air and surface to surface missile systems, and gun fire control systems at the organizational and intermediate level.
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. More than 30,0000 recruits graduate annually from RTC and begin their Navy careers.
For more news from Recruit Training Command, visit navy.mil/local/rtc/.