“Sailor of the Year” Has Special NNS Connection

Published June 7, 2022

Chief Select Logistics Specialist Romeika Dillingham, who serves on USS George Washington (CVN 73), recently earned an impressive honor. She was named Sailor of the Year for Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (CNAL).

“I never imagined this. My goal is to come to work every day to support the Navy’s mission,” Dillingham said. “I love to empower sailors because they are the heartbeat of the Navy. That’s all I was looking to do.”

In the Navy for 11 years, Dillingham has been assigned to CVN 73 for more than two years as the aircraft carrier undergoes its mid-life refueling and complex overhaul at Newport News Shipbuilding. But her time on George Washington isn’t Dillingham’s only connection to NNS.

Her husband, Jason Dillingham, is a lead general foreman in the Columbia-Class Submarine Program and has been a shipbuilder for more than 12 years. However, the Dillinghams point out that they did not meet at work. They met the old-fashioned way – at the DMV. The husband and wife have embraced their work at the shipyard.

“I think it’s amazing. Even though he works on submarines and I work on a carrier, we both cherish the fact that we serve our country in different facets and truly appreciate what the other does,” Romeika Dillingham said. “At the end of the day, the shipyard and the Navy are all one team. We’re trying to get this ship back to sea to do its job, and we could not do that without the expertise of these world-class shipbuilders.”

Jason Dillingham – who was a welder before moving into leadership – said quality is always important for shipbuilders, but knowing his wife serves on ships built at NNS puts that value in “a different perspective.”

“Before I met my wife, the first boat I ever worked on was USS Gerald R. Ford
(CVN 78). Years later, my wife served on it, so I had direct correlation with her safety on the boat since the welds are critical to the integrity of the ships,” he said. “Down the line, our kids could follow in our footsteps, and one of them could serve on a boat that I’ve worked on.”

As leaders, both Dillinghams believe it’s important to lead with intent and to empower the sailors and shipbuilders on their teams.

“I think what syncs us up together is our thinking on leadership and being servant-leaders to our people,” said Jason Dillingham. “I get to learn how the Navy operates from her, and she gets to learn how the shipyard operates from me. We can sort of ‘play tennis’ and use each other as a sounding board to lead in a better way.”

The Dillinghams are parents of four and familiar with the pressures associated with being a military family and the importance of work-life balance.

“This is truly a team effort on both ends. There are times when I’m out to sea, and he steps in and has to do everything. That’s why it’s important to have a good support system,” Romeika Dillingham said. “I can sleep peacefully at night because I know my kids are with their dad, and I know he is going to take care of them so I can go handle the mission and get back home.”