Military bases are flowing with troops going above and beyond their daily duties to make a difference for their country, but every so often, a stellar performer just seems to stand out. Information Systems Technician 1st Class (Surface Warfare) Maria Pastuna is one such Sailor.
Pastuna, who has served in the Navy for more than 12 years, reported to the Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division (NAVEODTECHDIV) just a year ago. To meet the needs of the command at the time, she immediately began working in the Technical Support Detachment (TSD) administrative office and communications center, an area outside of her usual rating or job.
"It can be exciting to sometimes work outside of your rate," explained Pastuna. "While I do miss my normal job, sometimes I feel like it is really rewarding to work here in a command that plays such a vital role in helping save lives."
A large part of NAVEODTECHDIV's mission is to develop, deliver and provide life-cycle support for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) information, procedures, tools and equipment to meet the needs of joint service EOD operating forces and other customers worldwide.
"While I may not personally be on the front lines right now, I am really happy to be even a small piece of the puzzle to fulfill our important mission," she adds. Her positive and enthusiastic attitude quickly caught the leadership's attention.
"It was astounding how quickly she learned the job," said her immediate supervisor, Chief Yeoman William Cunningham. "With her intense drive, she quickly learned all of the latest policies and regulations to help the Sailors at the command. She is a now an invaluable asset."
TSD's Leading Chief Petty Officer, Senior Chief Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician Dan Trout agreed whole heartedly. "Here at TECHDIV Sailors often have the unique and exciting opportunity to work outside their usual jobs. From the moment Pastuna reported on board, her infectious energy and professionalism quickly made us recognize she has such incredible potential," he explained.
"It didn't take us long to offer her more responsibilities such as the job of command career counselor, a position usually held by someone of higher rank especially at a senior command like this one."
Pastuna said she immediately fell in love with her new position, and the opportunity to provide help and counseling to other Sailors when it comes to their career paths. "This job is so interesting," she exclaimed. "I really love keeping on top of the Navy's latest information to help aid Sailors with their careers, but mostly I just love to help people. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you get a great result."
Pastuna is also highly involved in the command's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) committee, and is an office holder for the First Class Association. She always volunteers in some way for the majority of the base's activities. She especially enjoys volunteering when it comes to her own heritage. While she was born and raised in New Jersey, Pastuna's parents originally moved to the United States from the South American country of Ecuador.
"I really appreciate how much the Navy recognizes our Latino community," she said. "I think they really do a great job at recognizing different multi-cultural heritages as a whole."
The Navy is currently observing Hispanic Heritage Month until Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South and Central America.
To those who don't know her, IT1 Maria Pastuna may simply seem like another Sailor working hard to leave her mark on her command and the Navy, but for anyone who personally works with her at NAVEODTECHDIV, they know that she is truly something a little more exceptional.
"To find someone like her, someone who performs at extremely high levels, exceeding all of our expectations with such an incredible attitude, is a true gift," stated Cunningham.