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Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Utnage was selected the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Blue Jacket of the Year for 2005 based on his performance in urgent care at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s Navy Branch Health Clinic.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael Utnage was selected the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Blue Jacket of the Year for 2005 based on his performance in urgent care at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s Navy Branch Health Clinic. (Cindy G. Alejandrez / Courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps)

There’s nothing, it seems, like a little sharp competition to spur military career achievement.

Especially if your chief competitor is your spouse.

Just ask Petty Officers 3rd Class Michael and Rachel Utnage, hospital corpsmen at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni.

Michael Utnage, 25, supervising petty officer for emergency care at Iwakuni’s Navy Branch Health Clinic, learned Jan. 20 that he was selected as the 2005 U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Bluejacket of the Year.

The award is given to the outstanding sailor ranked E-4 or below working at the hospital or its branch clinics. To win, Utnage explained, he had to put his accomplishments throughout 2005 on the line and face an oral grilling by a board of senior enlisted personnel.

And he had to do better than other competitors — including his wife, 21, a hospital corpsman selected as the Iwakuni Health Clinic Sailor of the Year in 2004.

“We study together quite often,” Michael Utnage said Thursday, “so it does become competitive. Still, we pull for each other.”

To a point.

“I pull for her,” he said, “and I’m happy when she does win — as long as I won this one.”

“Well,” said Rachel Utnage, the current U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Bluejacket of the Quarter, “it’s OK with me that he won it this year. It’s OK because I’ll be back and I’ll win next year.”

Indications point to the competition continuing.

Both sailors have served three years and say they’ll continue studying together. Both are working to complete bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

“Once I do that,” Michael Utnage said, “I want to complete a commissioning program.”

“Hey, he never told me that,” his wife said.

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