Job description: Defense Intelligence Agency, Washington, D.C.
Personal: 29-year-old education advocate for sailors and committed ambassador for Navy College programs.
Salters uses education as an icebreaker.
“If I see someone just sitting around with nothing to do, maybe someone I’ve never met, I’ll go up to them and start talking to them about their goals and about education,” he said. “That’s how I introduce myself.”
Salters dedicates nearly every moment of his spare time to motivating sailors and informing them about programs such as the Sailor-Marine American Council on Education Registry Transcript, which assigns college credits to military training, and the College Level Examination Program, which allows sailors to study for a single test that will earn them credits.
Salters’ message is simple: The Navy makes it easy to earn a degree.
“Through the programs that exist right now, a sailor can earn a bachelor’s degree in six months to a year,” he said.
And Salters doesn’t just talk the talk: He has bachelor’s degrees in computer studies and history, as well as a bachelor’s degree in strategic intelligence from the National Intelligence University.
Salters has compiled an hourlong brief that outlines how simple it can be for sailors to earn a degree — and has driven hours on his own time to deliver it.
“He sincerely cares, and if people are willing to put in the work, he’ll go above and beyond to make sure they are successful earning a degree,” said Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 2nd Class Valencia Armando, who served with Salters at Navy Information Operations Command Maryland. “He is everything I want to be at some point.”
Beyond his commitment to education, Salters is an outstanding sailor. He’s served on submarines, ships, with ground forces and with air operations. During that time he’s earned six warfare qualifications.
Job description: Command paralegal at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti.
Personal: 45-year-old reservist, mother of two, volunteer organizer on base for Caritas Street Children Program, sings in the Catholic choir.
Not long after arriving at a Horn of Africa base in 2013, Cueto took on an important mission off base: mentoring at-risk children at a shelter every week.
The kids, 16 and under, come to the Caritas Djibouti refuge for daytime shelter and food every day. Once a week, Cueto began leading volunteers from the base over to play with the kids and teach them English.
The children live on the street. Many are orphans or refugees who do not get enough to eat. They have little education. Many lack clean clothes — even shoes.
“They’re so appreciative of anything. You give them two pieces of candy, and it’s like the best thing in the world,” Cueto told Navy Times in a phone call from Camp Lemonnier, where she is on two-year unaccompanied orders. “You really touch their hearts.”
Cueto is a mobilized reservist who has a 12-year-old daughter and 24-year-old son back home. Her passion for her adopted kids at the shelter has galvanized the base.
When she started with the program in August 2013, she would typically arrive at the center for the Saturday visits with four volunteers. Now she has 25 each week — a cap she sets so as not to overwhelm the shelter. More than 100 volunteers regularly give their time.
The growth in the number and enthusiasm of volunteers is “a result of her personal initiative and outreach,” wrote Lt. Courtney Gordon-Tennant, Cueto’s former department head, who nominated her for the Navy Times Sailor of the Year award. “She is a true ambassador.”
Volunteers watch movies with the children or read to them. They teach kids to read, count and paint. Many of the teenagers have what in the U.S. would be a grade-school level education, Cueto said.
“I will never forget the times I spent at Caritas, and the children will forever stay with me,” Cueto said in an email. “Knowing that I’ve made a small difference in their lives is a reward enough for me.”