MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Finest, greatest, unsurpassed and paramount are only a few words that relate to the word best. So what if you were selected as the best of the best? It would show you had determination and a desire to excel. It would prove that you were squared away and elite.
Staff Sgt. Eric Azevedo, 1st Tank Battalion, tank commander and company master gunner for Company A can claim that title.
Azevedo was presented with The Best of the Best Award at the Combat Center Parade Field Sept. 25 for his achievements while attending a school for master gunners.
"When I first went to class they told us the best overall person for the entire year would receive the award," said Azevedo. "So I tried really hard, and I got it. I’m happy to get something for all that hard work."
Azevedo, who joined the Marine Corps in 1997, knows what the top feels like already as he graduated at the top of his M1A1 Basic Armored Crewman course and received a Certificate of Commendation.
In February Azevedo was given the chance to attend a Master Gunner’s course in Fort Knox, Ky.
The Master Gunner’s course is an 11 week course that teaches an armor noncommissioned officer advanced gunnery methodology, turret weapons systems maintenance and gunnery training management, according to the Web site http://www.knox.army.mil.
To receive the award, the school looks at all the honor graduates from each class during the year and selects the one with the highest academic achievement. Azevedo left the Master Gunners course with a 98.3 percent average.
On top of the prestigious award, Azevedo also claims the title as the first Marine Tanker to receive the award.
"It feels good to be the first, because the Army has pretty much dominated it," said Azevedo.
The school is known as one of the toughest schools and has a 40 percent failure rate, according to the Web site.
So, to be accepted into the school and pass is an accomplishment in its own right, but to pass and receive top honors shows that the working skills and ethics behind the individual are strong.
Azevedo credits his success to hard work and certain Marines who he looked up to as a lance corporal.
Azevedo is preparing for his second deployment. Now he can take the skills he has obtained, put them to use overseas and teach the Marines under his command.
Not only can Azevedo feel pride in being the best, but 1st Tanks can train in the United States or fight overseas knowing they are with someone who carries a great amount of knowledge and has earned the title Best of the Best.