GROTON, Conn. – The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut (the Chamber) and multiple service clubs and organizations helped recognize Sailors assigned to Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE) New London and tenant commands, during four virtual award ceremonies for the Service Person of the Month (SPOM) program.
The Chamber has played a huge role in making the SPOM program possible by being the liaison between the local service clubs and SUBASE New London. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the Chamber suspended in-person ceremonies for the program, and worked with the service clubs to find an alternate way to continue recognizing the amazing work and contributions Sailors have been providing to their command and community.
"The quality of life in eastern Connecticut is significantly enhanced by the involvement of military families in our region, said Colleen Gresh, Communications Specialist for the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. “The Service Person of the Month is a wonderful chance for organizations and businesses to thank a serviceperson who has gone above and beyond in their duties and shared their talents in our community. While 2020 has been a challenging year, our Military Affairs committee, community service organizations, and Chamber staff worked to continue the program and recognize honorees, even as many events have moved to virtual platforms. There is a strong commitment to our military families, and the business community is pleased to offer recognition of their service through this program and others."
The Chamber in conjunction with the Waterford Rotary Club hosted the first virtual SPOM ceremony for Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Aviana Nash on Oct. 19.
Nash was recognized for her unfailing diligence, assertiveness, and total dedication to excellence at SUBASE New London and her work with the base’s Defense Courier Services Program that helped ensure all incoming shipments to the command arrived in a timely manner.
Nash even had the opportunity to share this accomplishment with her father Vincent Nash Sr., who attended the ceremony virtually.
“Aviana, your family is all very proud of you, and it is truly a blessing to see you be rewarded for all of your hard work and dedication,” said Nash Sr. “Please don’t stop being awesome and continue to do great things.”
The second ceremony was hosted by the Niantic Rotary Club for Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Dane Niles on Oct. 21.
Niles was recognized for his service to Naval Submarine School (NAVSUBSCOL) and community. Even though Niles was not billeted as an instructor at NAVSUBSCOL, that didn’t stop him from giving his all to the position and setting him apart from his peers. Niles dedicated more than 125 hours of extra work hours to help teach additional NAVSUBSCOL courses that were required due to COVID-19 mitigation measures. In addition, he mentored and guided 36 junior personnel with their transition process from military service.
During his virtual ceremony, Niles praised his command for the immense guidance they have given him and thanked the local community for their support.
“The community that I live they have actually given me a lot of support as well, especially since COVID took such a drastic turn throughout the events of 2020,” said Niles. “Ultimately I would like to thank my command and I would like to thank [the Niantic Rotary Club] as well, and I am very honored to be here.”
Navy Diver 1st Class Todd David Verhagen was recognized for his service by the Montville Rotary Club on Oct. 27.
Verhagen is stationed at Naval Submarine Support Facility New London (NSSF) as a First Class Diver. While onboard he has excelled as a Diving Supervisor and is a model Sailor for his Dive Team. Verhagen is the Leading Petty Officer for Dive Team 3 with multiple collateral duties on top of his normal job requirements. He also serves as a member of the Lisbon Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical services supporter.
“I enjoy giving back to the community,” said Verhagen. “It’s a great way to positively reflect the Navy. I want to show my kids that it’s alright to give back and it doesn’t hurt helping a stranger.”
The final virtual SPOM ceremony for the year was hosted by the New London Rotary Club for Navy Diver 1st Class Ryan Murphy on Nov. 19.
Murphy is an instructor at NAVSUBSCOL. He has multiple collateral duties for NAVSUBSCOL including ones that are typically helped by higher-ranking personnel. In the past year, Murphy has been awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, NAVSUBSCOL Sailor of the Quarter, and Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. SPOM is just the latest recognition for all of his hard work and community service.
The SPOM is a year-long program run by the Chamber, and Southeastern Connecticut service organizations, in which 12 local military members are recognized for their accomplishments, not only in the line of duty but also in the greater community.