By Naval Special Warfare Public Affairs
A Sailor from SEAL Team 18 who passed away recently from colon cancer has been posthumously promoted to Chief Petty Officer by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, one of only three reservists to receive the honor.
MCPON (SG/SW/IW) Steven S. Giordano issued the promotion of Chief Gunner’s Mate Juan Ithier in January, only the fourth such honor he has approved since taking office in September 2016. Ithier, who spent 19 of his 33 years of service with Naval Special Warfare (NSW), passed away earlier this year after a six-year battle with colon cancer.
A ceremony was held at the Navy SEAL Heritage Center on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek April 23rd to honor Chief Ithier’s promotion to Honorary Chief Petty Officer and celebrate his 33 years of service to a grateful nation. His wife Sandra was presented a shadow box, combination cover, and paddle among other gifts. It was attended by SEAL Team 18, guests, former teammates and members of GMC Ithier’s family.
After enlisting in the Navy in 1980, Ithier served as a Torpedoman’s Mate until the rate was disestablished in 2007. He reported to Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Reserve Detachment 107 – the predecessor of SEAL Team 18 – in 1994. He also was a plankowner of Operational Support Team 2 and SEAL Team 18.
Serving on both active duty and in the reserves, GMC deployed once to Afghanistan and several times to the SOUTHCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR), including Colombia, Panama, and Jamaica. He served as the unit’s primary armorer and during exercises downrange he served as an interpreter, Range Safety Officer, weapons instructor, and as the Senior Enlisted Advisor of the support element. The Colombian Commandos who successfully executed Operation Jaque in July 2008, which rescued 15 hostages – including 3 American contractors – were trained by the team of NSW trainers who GMC Ithier supported.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s before the restructuring of NSW reserves, he served as the Command Career Counselor, Training Department Leading Petty Officer, and primary Range Safety Officer as well as a small arms instructor for Naval Special Warfare Group 2 Reserve Detachment 107, and then later NSW Operational Support Team 2. After Sept 11, 2001, he was instrumental in training reservists for mobilization, and assisted in facilitating the mobilization of over 150 Naval Special Warfare operators and enablers to active duty in support of the Global War on Terrorism. His personal awards included the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for heroism, Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal.
“Juan was the epitome of a Chief Petty Officer – he had a detailed knowledge of all subjects, he managed multiple personalities and departments which kept everything and everyone on target, and he was always the first to arrive and last to leave,” said Lt. Ryan Clapper, a former SEAL Team 18 teammate. “Like any good Chief Petty Officer Juan made everyone around him better. I am extremely proud that I was able to be a mentored by one of the greats.”
“Juan Ithier was the best friend and teammate anyone could ever ask for,” said Chief Electronics Technician (EXW/FPJ) Rich Gapski, SEAL Team 18 Voluntary Training Unit OIC. “Up until this year, the proudest moment in my 28-plus year Navy career was nearly ten years ago when I had my wife pin on one of my anchors and my mentor, Juan Ithier, pin on the other. From now on, my proudest moment was the day I was able to welcome Chief Juan Ithier as my brother into the Chief’s Mess as a fellow Chief Petty Officer.”