Naval Support Activity La Maddalena, Italy, is an easy place to miss on the northern coast of Sardinia. But three sailors stationed at the small base have seemingly put it back on the map.

Petty Officers 1st Class Jose Cabarcas, Kyle Vaughan and Shawn Kline have made names for themselves by rising to two of the Navy’s highest sailors of the year competition. Cabarcas, a storekeeper on the La Maddalena-based USS Emory S. Land, is currently in Norfolk, Va., taking park in the Atlantic Submarine Forces sea sailor of the year competition.

What makes their selections remarkable is that there are only about 1,500 sailors assigned to the two commands: about 1,100 on the Land and only 300 on the base itself.

“It’s been a surprise for all of us in the command — enlisted, officers, everybody,” said Vaughan.

The base commander, Capt. Gregory Billy, said he believes three things make La Maddalena sailors stand out.

“First, all three are remarkable individuals,” he said. “The choices they make on a day-to-day basis … testify to their abilities, and they’re overall sharp guys.”

Second, he said, “Our first class petty officers work well together.”

“We’re a small organization and have to fulfill all the things found on a larger base,” Billy continued, “offering our petty officers the opportunity to step up” and take on more responsibilities.

“Here, we ask them to do a lot across the board,” he said.

Vaughan, a legalman, stood in as the base staff judge advocate when the legal officer deployed to Kosovo, Billy said. Kline, a master-at-arms, was deployed to Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.

“Probably the third fact is the … pride and professionalism among our sailors,” Billy said. “Our first class petty officers work well together.”

Whether or not Kline and Vaughan work well together, they’re at the point where they’re competing against each other and three other candidates for the vice chief of naval operations shore sailor of the year.

“It’s ‘Oh, now you’re enemies,’” said Kline about the reactions of the other sailors.

“They told us to go buy boxing gloves,” said Vaughan.

Both agreed that, at this level, there’s really nothing else they can do to get a leg up on the competition, so they’re content to wait until the VCNO competition.

If either Kline or Vaughan comes out on top of the April 12-14 judging, they will advance to the chief of naval operations shore sailor of the year competition.

If Cabarcas is selected as the Atlantic submarine force sailor of the year on Friday, he’ll advance to the Atlantic Fleet’s sea sailor of the year competition.

The person selected as the CNO’s shore sailor of the year, and those selected for the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets’ sea sailors of the year, are promoted to chief petty officer, along with the Navy Reserve sailor of the year.

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