Story by Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) — Navy Diver 1st Class Thomas Gerace, from Chesapeake, Virginia, was recently recognized as the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) Sea Sailor of the Year.
This award allows Navy commands to highlight their top Sailors and reward them for their hard work and dedication. These Sailors then go on to compete against other command finalists to be recognized as the Sea/Shore Sailor of the Year for the entire U.S. Navy. The final winners earn promotion to the rank of chief petty officer.
Gerace listed some of the reasons he believes he was selected as the NECC Sailor of the Year.
“I had phenomenal leadership and mentorship as well as sailors that were willing to work with me and for me on a daily basis,” said Gerace. “I was given a rock-solid team and although we were presented with some new and unique opportunities, together we turned them into successful highly evolutions.”
Gerace, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Ft. Story (JEBLC-FS), joined the Navy in 2005. He began his career as a Surface Sonar Technician and in 2008 changed jobs, joining the prestigious ranks of the Navy Dive community as a Navy Diver, and has served in that capacity ever since.
The job of a Navy Diver is challenging and rewarding by itself, but for Gerace, it’s more than that, it’s a family tradition. Gerace’s father served as an active duty/Reserve force Navy Diver for 27 years, retiring as a senior chief, and then worked for the DoD as a civilian diver for almost 30 years. The Navy is also more than just following in his father’s footsteps as a job; it’s where Gerace’s father met his mother and where Gerace met his wife.
Gerace attended Western Branch High School in Chesapeake, Virginia and graduated in 2004. He offered his thoughts on why joining the Navy is a great choice.
“The experiences, both work related and personal, are irreplaceable,” said Gerace. “Serving your country in this capacity is, in my opinion, one of the most honorable things an individual can do. The benefits of serving, whether it be for four years or 30, will last a lifetime.”
MDSU-2 is one of the Navy’s premier diving and salvage units which is prepared to rapidly deploy combat-ready, expeditionary warfare capable and specialized dive teams to conduct harbor and waterway clearance, emergent underwater repairs and salvage operations in ports or harbors and at sea aboard United States Navy, Military Sealift Command or commercial vessels of opportunity in wartime or peacetime.
“It’s an amazing command to be a part of due to the many unique diving opportunities available while there,” said Gerace. “It is truly a command that forges professionals and challenges leaders to improve on a daily basis.”
While stationed at MDSU-2, Gerace had the opportunity to dive in multiple countries and make some unique dives in the United States. He was able to perform diving operations using SCUBA, MK16, dynamic positioning, and surface supplied air and mixed gas and conducted salvage operations, ship’s husbandry, and anti-terrorism force protection diving.
“My advice to sailors striving to be successful in the Navy is to challenge yourself to grow both personally and professionally every day,” said Gerace. “Set new goals, aim for higher qualifications, and do not stagnate. Above all aim to contribute as a positive and synergistic member of your team. I truly believe that the healthy success of individuals lies in the success of their entire team.”
MDSU-2 is part of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Group 2, headquartered at JEBLCFS, which oversees all East Coast-based Navy EOD mobile units, including one forward-deployed mobile unit in Spain, as well as EOD Expeditionary Support Unit 2, EOD Training and Evaluation Unit 2, and the only East Coast-based mobile diving and salvage unit, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2.
NECC is responsible for organizing, manning, training, equipping, and sustaining the Navy Expeditionary Combat Force to execute combat, combat support, and combat service support missions across the full spectrum of naval, joint, and combined operations which enable access from the sea and freedom of action throughout the sea-to-shore and inland operating environments.