by Ryan Labadens, US Navy Public Affairs

One of Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport’s Sailors earned Navy-wide recognition for her exceptionally productive performance as a Department Leading Petty Officer, Course Supervisor, and Instructor at Naval Information Warfare Training Group Gulfport (IWTG Gulfport). Aerographer’s Mate First Class Leigh Windham was selected as the Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) Type Commander (TYCOM) Shore Sailor of the Year for 2018.

Windham, who is originally from Minneapolis, Minn., enlisted in the Navy in 2010, opting to join the relatively small community of Aerographer’s Mates, which she said is one smallest manned rates in all of the Navy.

“It involves meteorology and oceanography, especially with electromagnetic maneuver warfare… which has to deal with radars, satellites, energy propagation throughout the atmosphere, and how we can utilize that quicker and faster than the enemy – basically, can we see them first or can they see us first,” said Windham.

One of the things she loves about her career field in the Navy is the versatility and diversity of job options that go along with it, even though it is such as small field.

“That same piece same piece that I love about it is the same piece that can become challenging. Whereas I’ve spent most of my time in the Navy forecasting the weather in the atmosphere for airplanes and for ships moving safely through the water, my next command is going to be at a mine warfare command, detecting mines in the water – which is something completely different. So that training can be challenging when moving from one piece in this career field to another. But we’re all able to adapt and overcome,” said Windham, mentioning the adeptness she has witnessed in other Sailors in her career field.

Overcoming challenges is one thing that helped Windham get selected as the NAVIFOR TYCOM Shore Sailor of the Year for 2018. Sailors must display a level of professionalism and dedication that identifies them as being at the top of their profession in their command.

According to Ensign Celena Goff, IWTG Gulfport Training Support department head, as Leading Petty Officer for Curriculum Development Department, Windham led and mentored 13 Sailors in curriculum development of the most technical courses in the meteorology and oceanography (METOC) course catalog and is categorically regarded as the go-to subject matter expert in her field.

While serving as the Basic Oceanography Accession Training (BOAT) Course Supervisor, Windham also was responsible for the management, development and certification of 11 instructors, in addition to managing instructor and student schedules and organizing IWTG tours and leadership lectures.

As an instructor, Windham dedicated more than 200 hours of instruction and laboratory time towards teaching junior officers entering the meteorology and oceanography field, and she developed a training plan for the IWTG courses she teaches, all the while training two First Class Petty Officers toward receiving their Master Training Specialist (MTS) qualifications.

Windham also involved herself in a various of command collateral duties, such as serving as the vice president for NCBC Gulfport’s First Class Petty Officer Association, where she led the team in 25 fundraising events and coordinated 40 volunteer events within the local Gulf Coast community during 2018.

This is only a brief account of her accomplishments during her time here. Her department head, Daniel Banks, believes that all of this speaks volumes about her level of maturity as a petty officer, knowledge in her skill set, and proficiency as an instructor.

“I’ve been here for 20 years, so I can tell you that we’ve had about 50 instructors come and go through that time, and we’ve never had anyone who’s performed out all of those roles. Some just instruct and they become master training specialists, but they don’t really get to that level where they’re able to do work that is really above their pay grade like she has,” said Banks.

Even though Windham was honored to be named NAVIFOR TYCOM Shore Sailor of the Year 2018, she said she knows that her career field is more than just a one-person job – it’s a team effort. She praised the other Sailors and civilians working at IWTG for the excellence they constantly display.

“I really don’t think I could have gotten there without my team here and my home team too – my husband,” said Windham. “I’m still a little in shock about it. It’s just been a really incredible opportunity.”