MORON AIR BASE, Spain --
MORON AIR BASE, Spain – In the evening of May 20, 2019, Sgt. Jose Araya, an imagery analysis specialist with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa 19.2, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, was awarded the Moron Chapter and U.S. Navy League Marine of the Year, at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, Spain. The award is presented annually to a Marine who encompasses not just the “whole Marine concept,” but also admirable traits outside of uniform.
Araya was raised in Paterson, New Jersey, with his older sister and parents. His childhood was filled with challenging life lessons, but was structured by hard-working parents who provided what they could for their children. Joining the Marine Corps was an impulse decision upon Araya's high school graduation. Araya’s original plan was to attend college and participate in the “normal things in life,” Araya reminisced.
“It was an eye opener growing up because we couldn’t always get what we wanted and had to make sacrifices,” Araya said. “It was a good childhood and my parents did the best they could for myself and older sister. But, it was a quick decision to enlist after graduation. I realized my family wasn’t doing too well financially and I didn’t want to take out large student loans. I also wanted to do something exciting so, I thought the Marine Corps was the best option.”
Upon enlistment, Araya was set to become an administrative specialist, but after a year into the fleet he received permanent change of assignment orders to become a psychological operations non-commissioned officer. His passion and interest in the field grew to the point that he made the decision to make a lateral move into the intelligence occupational field.
“This was before this position became an actual MOS; a lot of people didn’t know a lot about it, myself included,” said Araya. “It was a learn-as-you-go experience. But because it played such a large impact in the Marine Corps, as well as the outside world, it made me realize what we can actually do on a greater scale.”
As his career progressed, Araya couldn’t have succeeded on his own. Along the way, he credits outstanding mentorship from two knowledgeable and experienced Marines in his field. These Marines helped to morph him into the accomplished Marine.
“Honestly, I never thought this would happen,” Araya said. “I thought I would go through my career and do what I had to do and go above and beyond. To actually win something like this is just a great honor. I am humbled to receive this award. I don’t think I am any better or any worse than the person to my left or right.”
Araya was nominated by two of his peers that recognized his work ethic and dedication to the Marine Corps and those around him.
“Out of the collective names to submit for the award, Araya was the one who stood out the most,” said Sgt. Quintin McKenna, a production and analysis chief with SPMAGTF-CR-AF 19.2, MARFOREUR/AF. “This award is all inclusive. It represents not just being a good Marine, but a good person as well. Araya is very quick to take initiative. It doesn’t matter how bad something is, if it needs to get done he takes it on head strong. His overall job proficiency is far and above what you could expect.”
Upon receipt of the award, Araya was in a room filled with vital embassy personnel, including the U.S. Ambassador Duke Buchan III and distinguished guests to celebrate the award.
“When I received the award it was very humbling,” Araya said. “There was a World War II veteran and a Vietnam veteran that attended the ceremony. Yes, I received this award, but there were two gentlemen that had done way more than I will ever do in my lifetime. To know that there will always be someone who will do more than you is just humbling.”