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Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) 2023 Service Member of the Year


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Washington, D.C. – Navy Legalman 1st Class Ebony Steward – who is assigned to Carrier Strike Group Eight – has been named the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) 2023 Service Member of the Year. Navy Legalman 1st Class Ronald Forster – who is assigned to Defense Service Office (DSO) Pacific – is the Naval Legal Service Command (NLSC) 2023 Service Member of the Year.

The awardees were recognized during a March 21 ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard in D.C. The Navy JAG, Vice Adm. Del Crandall, was joined at the event by Rear Adm. David Wilson, commander of NLSC; Master Chief Legalman Lourdie B. Powell, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the JAG, and Master Chief Legalman Tiffany George, Senior Enlisted Leader to NLSC.

“These six finalists selflessly poured themselves into this organization, and we noticed - we brought them here, because we want to meet and celebrate them,” said Wilson. “You all are the examples of sailors we need, not just to prepare for the fight, but to win.”

Steward and Forster were chosen from among six finalists for these prestigious awards. The finalists included Legalman 1st Class Ashley De Leon and Legalman 1st Class David Schneider, who were nominated for the JAG Service Member of the Year award; they also included Legalman 1st Class Mikhail G. Franco and Legalman 1st Class Erin Transue, who were nominated for the NLSC Service Member of the Year award.

“The winners, finalists, and those nominated are truly exemplary service members – making indelible marks on the JAG Corps and the Navy,” said Crandall.

Steward – who hails from Elizabeth City, N.C. – serves as Carrier Strike Group Eight’s flag Legalman. She joined the Navy in 2006 as an Operations Specialist, converting to the Legalman rating in 2014. During the past year, she processed more than 80 administrative separation packages, 17 nonjudicial punishment appeals, 30 investigations, 25 command managed equal opportunity cases, five detachment for cause requests, and one exception to policy request. She served as an assistant recorder for two administrative separation boards.

“Receiving this honor is more than just a nomination for me because it means that my peers, my command, and my JAG continue to believe in me,” said Steward. “That is enough to further prove to me that persistence is the key to the success and development of my command, my Sailors, and myself.”

Steward’s commanding officer, Capt. Thomas R. Lovett, chief of staff at Carrier Strike Group Eight, called Steward the complete package.

“Steward's second consecutive nomination as the JAG Service Member of the Year reflects her long-standing and far-reaching impact across Carrier Strike Group Eight and the naval enterprise,” said Lovett. “She is able to balance the demands of the legal portfolio with collateral duties, while still creating and seizing leadership opportunities. She is more than worthy of this honor!”

Forster – who hails from Tampa, Fla. – serves at DSO Pacific, Detachment Hawaii, where he has filled the roles of both Command Leading Chief Petty Officer and Leading Petty Officer. He enlisted in the Navy in 2012 and converted to the Legalman rating in 2015. During the past year, he supported the Hawaii detachment’s five defense attorneys, and also trained and led five Legalmen, four legal clerks, and two civilian paralegals across four geographic areas. He was actively involved in 12 courts-martial, six crucial motions, four plea agreements, and seven affidavits.

“This is a profound honor that resonates deeply with me,” said Forster. “I've witnessed incredible individuals receive this recognition, and to be considered among such esteemed company is genuinely humbling. My growth as a paralegal, leader, and Sailor has been sculpted by the unwavering support and guidance of my mentors. This recognition is not just an accolade; it's a testament to the ethos of hard work, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence. It validates my commitment to doing the job right and echoes a powerful message to my mentees: integrity, dedication to duty and commitment to taking care of your people - clients and Sailors alike - paves the path to recognition and success."

Forster’s commanding officer, Capt. Matthew J. Sklerov, who leads DSO Pacific, called him a true leader.

“Forster exemplifies leadership, compassion, energy, and resilience,” Sklerov said. “No matter the OPTEMPO or pressure the powerful example that he sets for our team inspires others to follow. His ability to thrive in challenging situations and extend himself to take care of shipmates, while flawlessly balancing duty and family commitments, sets him apart from his peers and makes him a deserving recipient of this award.”

The six finalists arrived in D.C. on March 18, and, throughout the week, they met with Navy leaders; toured significant D.C. and military sites; and took part in interviews with a selection board.

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