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Airplanes don’t have anchors, but if they did three European-based aircraft squadrons would have theirs painted gold.

The three units are included in the seven Europe- and Middle East-based commands selected as regional winners of the Atlantic Fleet’s 2003 retention excellence award.

The award is traditionally known as the “Golden Anchor” award.

The Atlantic Fleet commander, Adm. William Fallon, recently released a naval message congratulating the nearly 200 commands that received the award and authorized them to “paint their anchors gold.”

According to Navy Region Europe’s career counselor, Chief Petty Officer Elsa Saldivar, the award is based on calculations of how many sailors re-enlist or leave the Navy.

She said it’s not an easy award to get.

“Especially with the bigger commands,” she said. “You have so many junior personnel who traditionally have high attrition.”

Though the award is given for retention, Saldivar said much more goes into it.

“It has a lot to do with leadership, career counseling and other programs,” she said.

Everything from quick advancement to the availability of off-duty education directly affects sailors’ decisions to re-enlist, she said.

Golden Anchor winners

The seven European or Middle Eastern Navy commands receiving the fiscal 2003 retention excellence award were:

• Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron Two, Rota, Spain• Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Two, detachments in Naples, Italy, and Bahrain• Helicopter Combat Support Squadron Four, Sigonella, Sicily• Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eight detachment Bahrain• Joint Maritime Facility, St. Mawgan, United Kingdom• Personnel Support Activity Europe, Naples• Naval Surface Group Mediterranean Staff, Naples

— Jason Chudy

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