Okinawa Navy chief sets example for others
OKINAWA, Japan – Commissioning as a U.S. Navy Officer seemed like an unattainable dream for Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Egress Systems Upton Wallace. But for the St. Andrew Jamaica native, it became a reality.
Wallace said he previously tried for the Navy's Limited Duty Officer program twice, each time falling short. The chances of being selected for a commission was looking slimmer and slimmer, but he did not give up.
Growing up, his parents gave him support and instilled discipline early in his childhood. Through this support system he was able to get into a student exchange program and at the age of 21, he went to in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to attend school.
But life obstacles got in the way of Wallace’s plans. When school didn’t work out, he ended up dropping out and worked odd jobs as he rethought his career goals.
At 29, Wallace decided to enlist in the Navy to see new things and travel the world.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” he said. “I wanted a change in my life.”
Wallace knew from the beginning of his Navy career that he wanted to stay in aviation maintenance.
“When you are working around the aircraft, it’s a rush every single day - taking care of these aircraft and seeing them fly,” said Wallace. “It’s an unbelievable rush.”
Shortly after boot camp and follow-on school, Petty Officer 3rd Class Wallace was assigned to VFA-25 in Lemoore, Calif., where he learned about the Limited Duty Officer (LDO) program at a recruiting brief.
Wallace first applied for the LDO program as a First Class Petty Officer stationed at Naval Recruiting District (NRD) Miami. He was not selected. After completing the tour, he volunteered for an Individual Augmentee assignment and went to Kuwait, where he applied for the program again but was not selected.
He said that while he was a bit discouraged after not being selected the second time, he didn't give up.
With 13 years in the Navy, Wallace, then a chief, went to Patrol Squadron 10 (VP-10) out of Jacksonville, Fla.
Through feedback from his command, he learned that it was his lack of aviation experience that kept him from being selected. Armed with this knowledge, Wallace attained all his qualifications including safe for flight. He tried for the program a third time and was selected.
Cmdr. Alan Miller, commanding officer at VP-10, said he was overjoyed when he heard of Wallace's acceptance.
“This LDO promotion is well deserved,” said Miller. “The U.S. Navy is the ultimate winner here.”
Miller added that this commission serves as an example for others.
“The inspiration to my other junior Sailors comes from Chief Wallace's daily interaction with them,” said Miller. “I love to see that Sailors like Chief Wallace are always focused on 'paying it forward' and the development and care of our next generation of leaders – the junior officers and junior enlisted.”
Wallace said this selection serves as an example that perseverance pays off. He wants junior Sailors to never give up on their dreams.
“If I can do it, a poor kid from Jamaica, then anyone can do it,” said Wallace. “Success is judged by how many times we fall down and how many times we get back up.”
Chief Wallace was commissioned as an ensign Feb. 1 at Kadena Air Base’s officer’s club.
For more information on Commander Fleet Activities Okinawa, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/COMFLEACTOKI/