By MC3 Robyn B. Melvin
NPASE Detachment Southeast
It is often said that chefs have the biggest hearts because good food is made with love. This holds true to Culinary Specialist 1st Class Jakeila Owens, the leading petty officer (LPO) at Naval Station (NAVSTA) Mayport's Oasis Galley and an active victim's advocate for the base.
Owens has been a victim's advocate for four of her eight years of Naval service. She says that it was her experiences with her junior Sailors aboard the amphibious assault ship, USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) that convinced her to join the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) team.
"I had two Sailors who were really close to me that were sexually assaulted," said Owens. "They felt comfortable enough to talk to me. One of the them said 'you should be a victim's advocate,' she had faith in me."
For Owens, the decision to become a victim's advocate was a spiritual journey.
"I went to the Chaplain aboard the Iwo Jima and I told him my story," said Owens. "I was sexually assaulted as a child, I wasn't sure if I could lead someone in the right direction, because I was never open about my experiences. We prayed about it, and he told me that with my spirit and drive, I could do wonders. He believed in me.
Owens believes that it was because of the support of her fellow Sailors that she was able to gain the courage to become a victim's advocate and that hindsight, her roll in the SAPR organization was the next logical step after becoming a first class petty officer.
"I joined the Navy to do something more than just working and surviving," said Owens. "I actually feel like I'm making an impact on others lives."
Owens says that being someone her sailors can look up to is her motivation for being an exceptional leader.
"I believe she is a good LPO because she listens and respects all," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class JaBrian Johnson, assigned to NAVSTA Mayport. "It's very important to have a leader you can be open with and get guidance from. I would say she's approachable and that is a great characteristic in an LPO."
According to Dianca McCary, Naval Station Mayport's civilian sexual assault response program victim advocate, Owens was instrumental in organizing this year's SAAPM events.
"CS1 Owens is an extremely dedicated victim's advocate," said McCary. We look for those that have a desire to serve others. She is very compassionate and dedicated to the SAPR Program."
Owens hosted an open mic during SAAPM as a way to create safe environment for open conversation about sexual assault.
"I went to a coffee house, and I felt like it was an intimate, safe location for people to express how they are feeling," said Owens. "I wanted to allow my shipmates to experience something that I have experienced in my life."
According to public.navy.mil, the vision of the Navy Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program is to promote and foster a culturally aware and informed Navy respectful of all, intolerant of sexual assault, and supported by a synergistic program of prevention, advocacy, and accountability.
"Our active duty have a unique responsibility," said McCary. "Balancing the demands of their jobs as well as the demands of the program which they take on as a collateral duty"
According to Owens, SAPR has taught her how to deal with different situations, both as a victim's advocate and an LPO of the Oasis Galley.
"I've learned how to keep my composure," said Owens. "Being a victim's advocate you can't wear your emotions on your sleeve. If you are too emotional you're not going to be able to help any one. I also have a job where things are constantly changing, so I've learned to maintain my composure and get the mission done by any means necessary."
While describing her experiences, Owens, was baking a teal colored cake and cupcakes for a SAPR event. She explained that the best way to get through the day is to stay busy.
"If I don't go home and feel totally drained, I know I didn't give 100 percent," said Owens. "As long as you do your part, if you take care of what you can take care of, the mission is going to be completed."
The Oasis Galley received their third five-star accreditation award.