By Steve Lewis
SAN DIEGO – He may successfully lead a large department in a Navy hospital and he may have just received a highly significant award in recognition of that leadership, but if you ask Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF/SW/AW) Jason P. Hildreth why he feels he received such an award, he credits everyone but himself.
Hildreth was just recognized as “Sailor of the Year” by the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), but he insists the award was “based not about me but about the success and teamwork of sailors and outstanding leadership from the chain of command.” In receiving the award, he adds, “I was just there to represent the hard work of sailors, the teamwork of 1st classes and the leadership of the CPO (chief petty officer) mess.”
In reality, as the leading petty officer of Naval Medical Center San Diego’s main operating room, Hildreth leads a department of almost 200 Navy personnel who participate in more than 12,000 annual surgeries at the facility. Included in the MOR is an 18-room operating suite with 50 staff surgeons and residents.
In light of those responsibilities, all Hildreth will say is, “I’m proud of being able to mature and to be able to work with the outstanding staff here; it’s an opportunity not too many people get.”
In a statement accompanying the announcement of the award, Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan, U.S. Navy surgeon general and chief, BUMED, said, “Corpsmen represent our nation’s finest healthcare professionals and Navy Medicine’s most valuable resource — our people. As sailors and leaders, these talented men and women are making a difference around the world every day, ensuring the health, well-being and readiness of Navy and Marine Corps warfighters and their families.”
Following a good deal of prodding, Hildreth did finally share some of his daily responsibilities and accomplishments, including administrative work, helping to instill good order and discipline and “providing mentorship to junior sailors so they can be successful.”
Hildreth has held his leadership position for about 16 months and says the qualities that lead to such a position include being able to take on some of the more difficult tasks and to be able to “complete the mission.” Of all his previous positions, he adds, the one that most directly led to this current appointment was as the lead petty officer (LPO) on the USNS Mercy during 2012. “It helped me to deal with large numbers of individuals – a variety of civilians and military — and to bring them together to make a smooth team,” he shares. “That has really helped me out here.”
A Sense of Heritage
Hildreth says he first was attracted to the Navy because he saw it as “a job with a strong sense of heritage and a career my family could be proud of.” In fact, he adds, his grandfather served in the Navy.
Once in the Navy, how was he drawn to the area of healthcare? “The HM (hospital corpsman) rating was rich in history, with more opportunities for a variety of platforms that are available worldwide,” he says. “I felt this was the place where I wanted to be, the type of work I wanted to get involved in.” This was later reinforced, he adds, when he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where all of his work was with sailors and Marines.
This was most rewarding, he explains, because it gave him a critical role in “getting our fellow servicemembers safe, healthy and back with their families. Our sailors are the greatest resource, and they and their families are most important to me.”
His 14-year career also has included Field Medical Service School (FMSS) in Camp Lejeune, NC; Surgical Technologist School at Naval School of Health and Science, Portsmouth, VA; Naval Hospital Great Lakes, 1st Medical Battalion, Camp Pendleton, CA; and 1st Marine Logistics Group, Camp Pendleton, CA.
As for how he envisions his “combined” mission of Naval and healthcare service, “to me, it is one total mission,” Hildreth insists. “In the Navy, war-fighting comes first, and my responsibility is to make occupancies active at all times. The Navy is especially successful because we are based off of our diversity and heritage. We all do everything together as one giant team.”
Looking ahead to the future, Hildreth has some well-defined goals. “I’d love to be a command mass chief one day,” he says, “And to retire with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I also want to leave the Navy better than I joined it for junior sailors, who will continue to do the same for others through their dedication to the service.”