APRIL 1, 2015, U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF OPERATIONS (NNS) – Celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Navy Reserve is win-win for those wanting meaningful experiences to complement educational opportunities.
Even as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have concluded, thereby reducing the number of overall forces, there are still opportunities to join the Navy Reserve. There are many success stories from reservists around the fleet as they provide their technical expertise in a variety of rates at sea and ashore. One such success story can be found aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), currently deployed in the U.S. 5th fleet area of operations.
Information Systems Technician 3rd Class Kenzi Martin, a 21-year-old reservist from Eden, North Carolina, is serving her country aboard the ship as she earns money for college through the Montgomery G.I. Bill. After graduating from Anson County Early College High School, she enlisted in the reserves in order to obtain her bachelor’s degree with financial help from the Navy. When she made the decision to enlist in the reserves, she was optimistic about what the future would hold.
“Being a reservist gives me freedom to work on my education while also giving me a lot of billet options to choose from in the Navy,” said Martin.
Two- and-a-half-years later, she is deployed on Iwo Jima as an augmentee to Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 22. Martin was activated on Dec. 1, 2014 and hit the deck plates running as an Information Systems Technician with TACRON-22, one of the units assigned to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 8.
She has been fully integrated into the flag communications shop where she is one of five technicians who work there, ensuring the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) maintains proper communications in a dynamic and complex information environment.
“I joined the Navy to be at sea, so I am really happy to be here,” said Martin. “TACRON-22 is a great command and I have really enjoyed working with them.”
If given the opportunity, Martin says she would reenlist as an active duty Sailor because her experience aboard Iwo Jima has been so positive.
“I get to use my hands and fix equipment, which in turn contributes to mission success. I think that is pretty cool,” Martin said. “I really like my rate and the people I work with.”
Martin has set herself apart from her peers during her three months underway. She is known for her positive attitude and impressive work ethic.
“It has been an absolute pleasure having Martin on deployment with us. Her technical knowledge has proven to be a valuable asset to the communications success within the ARG,” said Cmdr. Matthew Donahue, TACRON-22 officer in charge.
Although she stays busy performing her duties as an information systems technician, she is also working on her enlisted surface warfare specialist (ESWS) and enlisted air warfare specialist (EAWS) qualifications. Martin is currently enrolled at the University of North Carolina- Asheville and has already earned her Associate’s Degree in Arts. She hopes to be commissioned upon completion of her undergraduate degree so she can serve as a Navy pilot, her ultimate, professional goal.
“I met a P-3 pilot who really inspired me while I was at recruit training. He started off enlisted and worked his way up. Now, he is a commander. He has been my inspiration since boot camp,” said Martin.
She firmly believes that the key to success is persistence and optimism. Her advice to other reservists – “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do a certain deployment or get orders somewhere. Be persistent and you will be successful. There are so many opportunities to get out in the fleet and do good work.”
Iwo Jima is the flagship for the ARG and, with the embarked 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), provides a versatile, sea-based expeditionary force that can be tailored to a variety of missions in the U. S. 5th Fleet area of operations.
Deployed Navy Reserve Sailors are showcasing the operational integration of Navy active duty and reserve forces, demonstrating the CNO’s priority of operating forward while ensuring the U.S. remains prepared and ready for contingencies.
Navy Reserve Sailors deliver essential skills and capabilities that complement critical Navy missions and provide best practices, technical skills, process management, and demonstrated leadership from vastly different work cultures in the civilian sector.