SAN DIEGO (NNS) — Leaders of men know their greatest resource is the people under their charge. Leaders also know, to be successful, they must fight for their people and guide and mentor them with their best interests in mind.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (Fleet Marine Force/Surface Warfare/Aviation Warfare) Jason P. Hildreth knows this sacrificial attitude is part of what helped him be selected as the Navy Medicine West’s (NMW) Sailor of the Year (SOY) for 2014 and as the Fleet Marine Force Hospital Corpsmen of the Year 2014.
“My experience was humbling. And to have an opportunity to be part of a selection process with the top caliber of sailors this region has to offer was amazing,” said Hildreth, a native of Edwardsville.
“All the Petty Officer 1st Classes were very were respectful and we carried ourselves as a team,” said Hildreth after facing a board of Navy Master Chiefs and competing with the 11 other sailors from Navy Medicine West commands.
Standing 6 feet 2 inches with a burly 215-pound frame, Hildreth, upon first impression, may strike intimidation into junior sailors. But, in his own words, he is an “intrusive” leader who takes an interest in his sailors’ lives by striking up conversations, to know them on a more personal level.
“I’m not afraid to talk to sailors or get to know them, and their families,” said Hildreth, Naval Medical Center San Diego’s (NMCSD) Main Operating Room leading petty officer. “I feel our sailors are our greatest resource and deserve all the opportunities they are willing to work for.”
As part of his intrusive leadership, Hildreth, who oversees 141 sailors, makes them his first priority. He considers their morale and welfare critical to their professional and personal success.
“Sailors are the future of the Navy,” said Hildreth. “As senior leaders, we’ve been through the difficult days and know what those are like. When we show our appreciation and support for junior sailors, they will understand our family atmosphere and carry that forward.”
Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Denise P. Franco, a sailor who works with Hildreth at NMCSD, noticed he has a knack for speaking to people in a way that energizes them to perform at their highest level.
“HM1 Hildreth knows how to motivate, guide and inspire his sailors to accomplish their goals and to perform better,” Franco said. “He knows how to deal with people in a tactful manner to maintain good relations.”
An additional leadership quality that led to Hildreth’s Sailor-of-the-Year nomination is his ability to motivate sailors to push themselves to be at their best, both professionally and in their personal lives.
“Hildreth’s leadership style is very positive high-energy, push-yourself-and-everyone-around-you-to-be-better with a team-focused emphasis,” Chief Hospital Corpsman Kona L. Wilson said. “The main operating room is 115 sailors strong. And it is very successful, partly, I believe, because of his leadership. There is an abundance of hard-working sailors within our department, which I truly believe is a reflection of his leadership.”
Hildreth spent seven months at Camp Dwyer, within the Helmand River Valley in Afghanistan, as a surgical technician. He was part of a team that received patients in a high-stress environment. It was an experience crucial in developing the leadership traits he applies today as a leading petty officer.
“(Camp Dwyer) helped me mature and appreciate the small things — tomorrow is never guaranteed,” Hildreth said. “It taught me what ‘hard work’ really means and the importance of incorporating teamwork with all tasks. There were days when we received a lot of patients, and we were extremely hot, under a lot of pressure, and human lives were in our hands. We stuck together and did the best we could: A lot of Marines and sailors made it home.”
When Hildreth initially learned he had won NMW Sailor of the Year, he was in a state of disbelief.
“I had to process it through my head a few times,” Hildreth said. “I didn’t believe it. When I got up to accept my selection with the Command Master Chief, I was in shock and felt a great feeling of honor overcome me,” he said.
Hildreth enlisted when he was 19. The Navy’s heritage and its track record of warfighting success are what appealed to him and played a factor in his decision to enlist. Hildreth also liked the universal appeal of the Navy’s uniform.
“The uniform means a lot to me,” Hildreth said. “It’s highly recognized around the world and it’s part of the reason I feel honored to be part of the Navy.”
Hildreth’s main reason for deciding to be a hospital corpsman was the diversity he saw in the rating — the various types of specialties and technical qualifications that can be achieved. He also noticed a corpsman’s services are required at naval commands all around the globe, which appealed to him.
“Hospital corpsmen are needed worldwide on every operational and shore platform,” Hildreth said. “Along with the strong heritage and history of hospital corpsmen, I thought: Why choose anything else?”
In addition to his appreciation of the hospital corpsman’s decorated history, Hildreth appreciates the various benefits the Navy has made available to him, such as tuition assistance and the opportunity to work abroad. But what he relishes most about being a sailor in the U.S. Navy is the chance to be part of its illustrious heritage.
“I get a chance to be part of something way bigger than I can ever imagine and put my hard work and sweat into making the Navy even better,” Hildreth said. “The Navy’s history and the sacrifices that were made will always be part of our legacy and success. It’s an honor to wear the Navy uniform.”
During Hildreth’s 14 years in the Navy he has completed tours at Field Medical Training Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; Naval School of Health Sciences; Naval Hospital Great Lakes, Ill. (Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center); 1st Medical Battalion; and the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) for Pacific Partnership 2012. In addition, Hildreth is a qualified surgical technician, formal instructor and field medical technician.
It is known that junior sailors need help to guide them along their career path. Leaders like Hildreth knows one of the ways to be successful is through hard work. As one of the First Class Petty Officer Association mentors who conduct the NMCSD Enlisted Advancement Review Course, he shows each sailor the more time they spend acquiring knowledge, the more they will be rewarded with rank and responsibility.