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    From Boot Camp to Best Friends: Two Sailors Navigate the High-speed World of Navy Recruiting

    Best Friends Compete in 100-meter Sprint

    Photo By Chief Petty Officer Joshua Keim | (Feb. 27, 2021) Navy Counselor 1st Classes Edward “Tyrone” Lee (left) and Cameron...... read more read more



    Story by Chief Petty Officer Joshua Keim 

    Navy Talent Acquisition Group Houston

    HOUSTON (NNS) – Cheers of excitement filled the vibe inside the gymnasium as the roar from hundreds of Navy recruits, gripped by one final bout of competition before graduation, reverberated in anticipation. It was the final leg of the relay race at the Captain’s Cup competition after seven long weeks at Recruit Training Command when Edward “Tyrone” Lee was set to clench the baton and head for the finish line. Cameron Johnson, an opponent from a competing division resting from his own leg of the relay, observed from nearby as the fate of the race was in Lee’s final sprint. Unbeknown to Johnson or the crowd, Lee was a three-time All-American, two-time NCAA conference champion track star who scoffed at the thought of losing a race, and that wasn’t about to change. Lee snatched the baton, burst forward and, within a few short seconds, the crowd erupted in astonishment.

    “When it was his turn, he literally had the entire Captain’s Cup at a standstill in awe,” Johnson recalled, his tone discreetly divulging continued admiration. “I was amazed at how fast this dude was. I mean, he completely destroyed everybody.”

    After the race, Johnson approached his turbo-charged competitor and asked, “Who are you? Why are you so fast?”

    Johnson and Lee didn’t know it yet, but they were about to embark upon an enduring friendship and a different type of race altogether.

    Today, more than a decade later, Johnson and Lee are two ascending stars whose potential is limited only by the height of their ambitions. Brothers by any sense of the word, they share much in common. Both have two daughters born two years apart; they were stationed together on Naval Base San Diego after “A” school; both are currently serving at Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Houston as Navy recruiters; they were both meritoriously promoted to first class petty officer in September 2019; and both were selected last year for rating conversions to Navy counselor as full-time recruiters. More meaningful than any of that, they both have Texas and Navy pride in their veins and a yearning to help change and improve people’s lives.

    “Success fuels me, sure, but seeing the impact I’m able to have at just my old high school, for example, with kids whose parents I went to school with makes all the hard work worth it,” said Lee. “We really have three options down here – sports, oil and gas, or illegal stuff. So, I can go back to these kids as someone who looks like them with all the same tattoos and stuff, and they see me enjoying what I do, hear about my experiences, and it just sort of clicks for them,” he added.

    Lee joined the Navy when he was 28 years old after graduating from Sam Houston State University with a bachelor’s degree and after a successful stint in the oil and gas industry. Displeased with his perception of the workplace politics he encountered in the industry, Lee was compelled to find a profession with greater job security to offer his family, more stability, and a better quality of life. Meanwhile, Johnson’s call to service was even more personal – a desperate plea for a better life for him and his family – and is still the driving factor behind his motivation to succeed in the Navy.

    “I didn’t care what job I had,” Johnson remembered. “Whatever position I was going to be put in, I was going to make the most of it because I needed to provide for my family. I needed the medical coverage because my wife has a serious medical condition, and I needed financial stability. I grew up struggling, not knowing where we were going to go, what we were going to eat. I was young, but I said I’d never live that life. But other than that, I’m successful because I’m driven to genuinely change and give someone the opportunity for a better life. There’s no greater feeling than knowing where [these recruits] come from and where they’re headed after they join. I come from a struggling family, so when I see someone else struggling and have the opportunity to help lift them up, I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity.”

    Johnson and Lee agree that full-time recruiting for the Navy, while rewarding, can also be challenging and, at times, relentless.

    “Recruiting is nonstop,” Lee said with a pitch of imminent anxiety. “Hitting goal every month is the hardest part, and every month there’s another goal. It’s not a nine-to-five job, but these kids are worth it.”

    The most challenging aspect of recruiting is denying entry to candidates who, based on various adverse circumstances, do not meet the basic eligibility requirements but would otherwise substantially benefit from service, said Johnson.

    “Closing the door on that individual and not giving them an opportunity to do better is the hardest thing to do,” he added with a sigh.

    Despite how Johnson and Lee arrived, they both have found their niche as Navy recruiters, and they are always competing in the way older and younger brothers do. When Johnson was selected as NTAG Houston’s Sailor of the Quarter in 2020, Lee was selected the following quarter. Watching each other succeed further encourages their competitive spirits.

    “He’s like 10 years older than me,” Johnson said about Lee, “but he has a very young soul. We both had two little girls, and my oldest has the same birthday as him. Our wives are best friends, and we’ve just been following in each other’s footsteps. He taught me a lot about how to raise girls, and he’s just someone I look up to. He never makes an excuse for anything. Whatever he has to do, he does it. He does it above what is expected. I think that’s why he’s been so successful.”

    Lee said it’s Johnson’s relatability and gregarious personality that help him thrive in recruiting.

    “He has the same outgoing personality, like, really outgoing,” said Lee. “He can talk and hit it off with anybody.”

    When asked who the better recruiter is, Lee exclaimed, “Oh, definitely me! I tell him that even though we got [meritoriously promoted] at the same time, I was only here for a year, and he had already been here for almost two. So, I technically did it faster,” he said, laughing.

    But when Johnson was asked the same question, his answer was strikingly indistinguishable.

    “Oh, definitely me!” Johnson replied with a playful chuckle. “By a long shot! He has a lot more firepower in his future in the Navy than what I have because he was personally groomed. He was definitely set up for success by all means. I had to completely make it known. If he wants to take that and say he’s a better recruiter, okay. But come on, we all know how that goes.”

    The next move on both of their agendas is the straightest line to chief petty officer.

    “My goal is to run my own division, get my Division Leading Chief Petty Officer qualification, and put myself in line to make chief,” said Johnson.

    “I’ll be eligible for the chief exam next year,” Lee said, “so my plan is to make chief at my next tour in San Antonio. I want to retire in the Navy now, so my plan is to make the highest pay grade. Not only that, but I want to be in the highest position that I can – chief recruiter at a regional or national level. Ultimately, out of life, I just want to be healthy, raise my kids, and see my grandkids grow up. I plan to start my own something before I retire. I train high school and college athletes now, so I’ll do something fitness related – probably start my own gym or something.”

    On the other hand, Johnson launched his own YouTube channel called “The Oreo Family,” which he hopes to grow into a family business.

    “It’s a channel for me and my family, and we do funny pranks and share our experiences, good times, birthday events, and stuff like that. It’s like our own personal reality TV show. The opportunity you have with a YouTube platform is phenomenal and can lead to an insane amount of generational wealth. We have 95 subscribers right now, but we’re just going to keep growing the channel and hopefully make something big from it.”

    Over the last 10 years, Johnson and Lee have found continual success in the Navy. Best friends, shipmates, competitors, and brothers: Today, they find themselves in a virtual tie as they race toward the finish line.

    NTAG Houston has 34 Navy recruiting stations covering more than 44,000 square miles in rural and metropolitan areas around Houston and Western Louisiana. Follow NTAG Houston on Facebook (

    To check out Johnson’s YouTube channel “The Oreo Family,” visit

    For more news from Commander, Navy Recruiting Command, go to Follow Navy Recruiting on Facebook (, Twitter (@USNRecruiter) and Instagram (@USNRecruiter).



    Date Taken: 02.28.2021
    Date Posted: 02.28.2021 10:06
    Story ID: 390149
    Location: HOUSTON, TX, US 
    Hometown: COPPERAS COVE, TX, US
    Hometown: LA MARQUE, TX, US

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