ROBBINSVILLE, NJ  --  A star student and athlete who graduated from Robbinsville High School in 2019 has excelled once again, this time in the Navy's Recruit Training Command. On October 25, Robbinsville native and new Seaman Recruit, Jessica Murray, graduated as top Sailor from Recruit Training Command, Division 399, earning the Military Excellence Award (MEA).  

The Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award is the top award presented to the number one recruit of their graduating training group. The MEA is awarded to the recruit that best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military bearing and teamwork. The award placed Murray, who is just 18 years old, at the pinnacle of the newest sailors; she was awarded a flag letter of commendation for her achievements. 

Murray said winning the MEA represents breaking boundaries.

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“I was able to go outside of my comfort zone to do the best I could for others and myself,” Murray said. “I hope to take everything I learned and did in order to obtain this award and put it toward helping others and pushing them outside of their limits so they become the best version of themselves. Winning this award makes me want to strive to continue to do better and get others to do the same.

“I wanted to give my life a different purpose and have always wanted to serve something other than myself,” added Murray who said she joined the Navy to help others. “My community has helped me in many ways and my goal is give back and not only help, but also protect others who cannot protect themselves.”

Murray credited her Recruit Division Commanders (RDC), Chief Boatswain’s Mate Heather Dovala, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class John Wooten, and Logistics Specialist 1st Class Peter Kengere for their leadership and guidance.

“My RDCs pushed me to my limits and broke me down just to build me back up,” Murray said. “Chief Dovala, Petty Officer Wooten, and Petty Officer Kengere always held me to the highest standards and made sure that I always gave one 100 percent. Petty Officer Kengere also always played encouraging speeches and gave many motivating talks that pushed me to go farther and be better. I would like to thank each of them for all that they did for the division and pushing me to be the best I could be.”

In High School, Murray was a member of the National Honor Society, the World Language Honor Society and played varsity soccer. She also was a petty officer first class with the John T. Dempster Division Sea Cadets in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.  In addition, she was employed as an instructor at a karate school in her hometown and has a third degree black belt.  

“Growing up in a small town, everyone knew everyone,” Murray said adding that learning to work with all her shipmates was her biggest challenge at boot camp. “Meeting all new people from all over, with many different personalities, was hard. I was able to overcome this by understanding people’s personalities and finding those who I could connect with to help get through the toughness of boot camp.” 

Boot camp is approximately eight weeks and all enlistees into the U.S. Navy begin their careers at the command. Training includes physical fitness, seamanship, firearms, firefighting and shipboard damage control along with lessons in Navy heritage and core values, teamwork and discipline. More than 35,000 recruits are trained annually at RTC and begin their Navy careers. 

Murray has been assigned the rate of machinist mate (nuclear). 

After graduation, Murray will attend Nuclear Machinist’s Mate “A” School in Charleston, South Carolina. She will then go to Nuclear Propulsion School and finally Prototype School. Machinist Mate duties in nuclear propulsion plants include operating reactor control, propulsion and power generation systems. Murray will be able to choose between serving on an aircraft carrier and volunteering for submarine duty.

Editor's Note: Thank you to the Navy Office of Community Outreach for sharing this information about our hometown seaman.

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