9 May 2000 | Sgt. Sean Fitzpatrick

The commandant of the Marine Corps presented the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to Sgt. Lee S. Mahlstede Jr., Marine Corps Institute's 1999 Graduate of the Year, in a ceremony at the Pentagon May 9.
General James L. Jones presented Mahlstede with the medal for successfully completing 15 MCI courses, two Period of Military Education programs, and amassing considerable credit hours through off-duty education for an associates degree in general education during one fiscal year.  He was also recognized for his extensive community contributions as an assistant soccer coach and Sunday school teacher, and his positive influence on his unit, the Marine Corps, and the local community.
Mahlstede, accompanied by his wife Michelle during his visit here, said the award was a pleasant and completely unexpected surprise.
"It's an honor [to be selected]," said Mahlstede.  "[Michelle] has helped me with every step of my career, and she is excited to see our efforts rewarded.  Honestly, neither one of us expected this type of an award for learning more about the job I do - we didn't even know the award existed."
Mahlstede said he not only wanted to refresh his understanding of the knowledge and skills every Marine learns in basic training, but also to improve his knowledge-base as an electrician.
"One reason I completed so many MCIs, is because we had a little competition going in the office to see who could get different and interesting MCIs," said Mahlstede.  "We've since used the course manuals to train our Marines, and [I've found] if you approach the courses in an positive manner, the morale within the work center increases as does [the Marines'] basic knowledge."
The number of MCIs Mahlstede's completed is daunting, but perhaps more impressive are the results.  His "leadership by example" has had a huge impact on the 20 other Marines in his shop.  Last year they had three meritorious promotions, three Marines of Quarter, two NCOs of the Quarter for the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron, and one NCO of the Quarter for the 3rd Marine Air Wing.
The announcement of his award also brought about other, unforeseen rewards.  According to Mahlstede, the publicity motivated several Marines' to take MCI courses beyond the required minimum.
"I think that is an outstanding product and testimonial to the impact of this award on a unit," said Mahlstede.
Aside from the elation and pride of being the MCI Graduate of the Year, he said he and his wife are really exited about visiting the nation's capital.
"It is an honor, and I am grateful for this selection," said Mahlstede.  "This is the first time my wife and I have been to Washington, D.C. and we think it's an honor that we have had such an important 'welcoming committee!'"
Eugene Proctor, president of the National Capital Council Navy League of the United States, was part of that committee and presented Mahlstede with a plaque and a $500 savings bond.
Mahlstede, a Radar Set Test Station technician at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., was meritoriously promoted to sergeant in May 1999, and will complete his degree through the Meritorious Enlisted Commissioning Education Program while attending the University of Utah in August.  He also said he would like to earn his pilot wings and maybe fly one of the sleek F-18s he works with everyday.