The Army is accustomed to recognizing Soldiers that stand out amongst the rest, but this year the 21st Theater Sustainment Command recognized one of the Navy’s finest Sailors working at the U.S. Army Regional Correctional Facility – Europe.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Elizabeth Pichardo, a Navy and housing liaison for USARC-E, is the 2021 Sailor of the Year for U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa.
“I nominated DC2 because she showed great motivation,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Carla Olivares, USARC-E Navy liaison. “Her ‘can do’ attitude is what a leader dreams of. She’s competitive and takes on a task head-on and for these reasons, and many more, I felt she had to get recognized for all the work she put in.”
This is not the first time Pichardo has won an award at this level. She was Junior Sailor of the Year in 2019. The recognition still reverberates within her as she looked up and emulated other award winners.
“There were some who had a phenomenal appearance, always had shined boots and a great uniform, others were just great at their jobs,” said Pichardo. “They had a great way of making everyone feel like they were a part of something great. I saw them be great, and I wanted to be just that.”
For Pichardo, working at USACF-E is a special duty assignment.
“I opted into a special duty to do this, this is definitely out of my rating,” said Pichardo. “I had to do a special screening for this. I thought this would be a great opportunity.”
Normally Pichardo is aboard a ship training Sailors as a damage controlman.
“I work with fire systems, fire prevention and pipe plugging and patching procedures,” said Pichardo. “I am a battle damage ready trainer. We specialize in firefighting and teaching the crew how to combat and control fires and flooding — pipe ruptures.”
Pichardo was recognized for being a watch commander whose duties include space searches, in-and-out processing of prisoners and frisking and searching inmates in a 24-hour environment.
Duties as a watch commander are vital to the safety and livelihoods of the staff and the prisoners within the facility.
“The tasks she and others complete on a daily basis can mean the difference between life and death or serious injury,” said 1st Sgt. David Stroh, first sergeant for USARC-E. “All it takes is one overlooked homemade weapon to cause serious injury and change a prisoner or correctional staff’s life forever. Safety is one of the main priorities for a confinement facility.”
Additionally, Pichardo was recognized for her contributions outside of her normal duties.
“I was the Assistant Command Fitness leader, volunteered at an animal shelter in the local area and coordinated with others to volunteer,” said Pichardo.
Her duties as an ACF leader meant that she helped Navy personnel in the area conduct physical readiness tests and body composition assessments which tests the readiness of the Navy’s personnel.
In her day-to-day work at the correctional facility, Pichardo works with prisoners as a liaison helping secure escorts for temporary release, coordinating with outside organizations for bringing in a prisoner, assisting with setting up meeting times with their lawyers, in-and-out processing of prisoners and handling administrative paperwork for the Sailors assigned to the unit.
Being in a new job brought challenges, but Pichardo was able to overcome them by reverting to her training.
“The first six months I was here I was doing shift work,” said Pichardo. “That was not my favorite. It was very intense, really intense. The patience you have to have for prisoners. They teach you how to have patience with the prisoners at the school house prior to coming, but practicing it, it made a lot of sense why they stressed it so much.”
Working for the Army has given her new insights into different leadership styles.
“The leadership is different from the Navy,” said Pichardo. “The Navy is very proud of what they do, but the Army leaders are even more proud and take pride in their work and their MOs. They are also very accepting of other branches coming in and doing their job.”
Pichardo’s devotion to the mission made her stand out amongst her Army peers.
“As a Navy liaison that position is often used to take a knee or not be part of the team as USACA-E has limited command and control of the liaisons,” said Stroh. “DC2 Pichardo is the exact opposite and has impressed all levels of the Army command. She wants to be part of everything and is willing to do exactly what her Army counterparts do. She does not look for a way out — she looks for how she can contribute to the team and accomplishes any task given to her.”
Winning an award of this level is personal to Pichardo.
“Being Sailor of the Year means making my younger self proud and I’m doing what I set out to do and hopefully I can inspire a few along the way,” said Pichardo.