By Rick Burke, Navy Office of Community Outreach

GREAT LAKES, Ill. – Sailors are some of the most highly trained people on the planet, according to Navy officials, and this training requires highly dedicated instructors, staff and support.

At Naval Service Training Command, staff oversee 98 percent of new Navy Accessions, including Recruit Training Command, Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and Officer Training Command ensuring officers and sailors enter the fleet tough, disciplined, courageous and trained in five warfighting competencies – firefighting, damage control, seamanship, watchstanding and small arms handling and marksmanship.

Lt. Donna Vorpagel-Gunther, a native of Merrill, plays an important role at NSTC, supporting these sailors as a human resources officer.

As a human resources officer, Vorpagel-Gunther is responsible for the training and curriculum of the Navy’s newest sailors and officers.

Vorpagel-Gunther, a 2003 graduate of Merrill High School, credits success in the Navy to many of the lessons learned growing up in Merrill.

“I learned hard work and resilency from growing up and working on a farm and the ability to adapt and overcome during hard times, and to appreciate family and life’s blessings,” Vorpagel-Gunther said.

NSTC’s mission is to transform volunteers into naval service professionals by instilling and reinforcing enduring core values, knowledge and skills to prepare them for the fleet.

A key element of the Navy the nation needs is tied to the fact that America is a maritime nation, and that the nation’s prosperity is tied to the ability to operate freely on the world’s oceans. More than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives close to a coast; and 90 percent of all global trade by volume travels by sea.

Vorpagel-Gunther plays a crucial role in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of National Defense Strategy.

“Our priorities center on people, capabilities and processes, and will be achieved by our focus on speed, value, results and partnerships,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “Readiness, lethality and modernization are the requirements driving these priorities.”

Vorpagel-Gunther’s proudest accomplishments are receiving the Blue Jacket of the Year Award, earning an associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degree while in the Navy, and raising two children while both she and her husband served.

“For Blue Jacket of the Year, I was nominated the top performing sailor out of thousands serving aboard USS Enterprise in support of Operation Iraqi and Enduring Freedom,” Vorpagel-Gunther said. “All of my accomplishments show that dedication and hard work pays off. The Navy has many opportunities available and is very rewarding even on the tough days.”

Serving in the Navy is a continuing tradition of military service for Vorpagel-Gunther, who has military ties with family members who have previously served. Vorpagel-Gunther is honored to carry on the family tradition.

“All of my family members who have served this country all served in the Army,” Vorpagel-Gunther said. “My grandfather, Warren Fischer, in World War II; my uncle, Bill Vorpagel, died young early in the Korean War; my sister, Davida Pritchard, served in the National Guard; and both of my brothers-in-law, Mike Pritchard and Darin Beschta, a major, are currently serving in the Army.”

As a member of one of the U.S. Navy’s most relied-upon assets, Vorpagel-Gunther and other sailors know they are part of a legacy that will last beyond their lifetimes providing the Navy the nation needs.

“Serving in the Navy means answering a personal call to serve my country and to support and protect America’s freedom,” Vorpagel-Gunther said. “It’s about being an example for my children to lead, experience new places and cultures and do the best job possible no matter how difficult the mission may be.”

Published with permission from the Navy Office of Community Outreach. Photo courtesy the Navy Office of Community Outreach.