WASHINGTON – Volunteering to work an extra shift Christmas Day is typical of Isabel Navarro-Bledsoe, a part-time recreation aide at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) Fitness Center I. She’s friendly and always willing to help out her co-workers and guests the best she can. It’s that kind of dedication and customer service that got her recognized recently by both Air Force and Navy leadership.
The Fitness Center was initially scheduled to be closed Christmas Day. A decision was made, however, to open for four hours. Bledsoe - the team player that she is - volunteered to work alone that day so her co-workers could stay home with their families. Her husband, Michael, had to work a 12-hour shift at his job, so she didn’t mind coming in and doing that for service members.
“A lot of people who come here are health junkies. It was nice to see them come in. Some with their own families,” Bledsoe said. “You think Christmas is all about opening gifts, but they came in to do something together. It was really nice to see.”
Bledsoe went about her business as normal. Opening the center and turning on machines, restocking towels in the locker room, cleaning up the sauna and greeting visitors. During her shift she met a very special guest, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer. He thanked Bledsoe for her work and said it was important to him that military personnel had a place to go and something to do for the holiday, especially those who couldn’t travel to see their own families.
About two weeks later, Spencer and Bledsoe would meet again. This time when he came to the Fitness Center to personally present her with a challenge coin in recognition of her outstanding service to military members just like him.
“It was beyond words. I’m incredibly grateful to Gen. Spencer that he took the time to recognize me,” Bledsoe said. “I’ve been working at the Fitness Center since September, so it really surprised me. I was just doing my job. Anybody here would’ve done the same thing.”
Not only did Spencer show his appreciation to Bledsoe, but so did JBAB commander Navy Capt. Anthony T. Calandra, who stopped by the Fitness Center Christmas Day to bring Bledsoe homemade cookies as a special thank you.
“It was very kind of Capt. Calandra to take time away from his family to come by and thank me. It meant so much to me,” Bledsoe said. “I told my mom and she was quite taken back by everything. She has a strong work ethic. I think it made her proud that her daughter received recognition for what she does.”
To those who work with her closely, Bledsoe’s work ethic comes as no surprise. Just ask Michael Perry, fitness complex director.
“Isabel is a team player. She’s always willing to step up and pick up extra shifts,” Perry said. “She’s a valuable asset to our group. I wish we had more just like her.”