I was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I was just a typical teenager. I never necessarily wanted to join the Military in the very beginning because I thought, honestly, that it was only for people who couldn’t get into college. I had pretty decent grades, and my parents said they would pay for college. But at that time, I was more interested in partying and knew if I had gone to college, I probably would have wasted my parents’ money.
I talked to my high school ROTC instructor, and he told me, “Well, basically, what you’re saying is you lack discipline. In the Military you get a constant dose of 24-hour discipline and living to a higher standard. You should try it for four years.”
So I enlisted in the Navy — it seemed to be the perfect fit.
After attending Boot Camp at Great Lakes Recruit Training Depot in Illinois, I went to Pensacola, Fla., for “A” School. “A” School is where you learn the basics of your trade. So I spent about four months learning how to be a cryptologic technician. I was number three in my class so I got to pick my orders. I picked Hawaii and reported in June of 1997. Once there, I helped support all surface fleet (destroyers, carriers) intelligence communication channels by setting up networks and defending our major assets against hackers.
After three years, I received orders to work supporting submarines in Pearl Harbor. It was a completely different field of work being on a sub, so it was a lot of additional hands-on training.
After Pearl Harbor, I was assigned as the leading petty officer of communications on the destroyer USS Chung-Hoon. About three years into my tour on the USS Chung-Hoon, I got handpicked to be one of the first members of a special Navy unit that was helping to counter improvised explosive devices in Baghdad. I was responsible for planning missions for my 170-member battalion. At first it was scary, and definitely challenging, but I successfully completed 46 combat missions and left with a Bronze Star — it was a proud accomplishment.
Once back, I went to the Naval Maritime Forecasting Center, which does all the weather forecasting for the Pacific fleet and over in southeast Asia. I worked there for about a year and then got promoted to chief petty officer and moved back to Hawaii. I am still there, and I am in charge of all the communications for the Pacific fleet submarines.
A typical day for me consists of making sure all the communications channels are up, as well as planning support for ships and subs going on deployment. I also deal with new communications equipment we are getting installed. I have a division of 17 Sailors who report to me when they are on watch, and then I brief my chain-of-command.
Currently, I enjoy being a chief. As a chief, you’re the first-line leadership for your junior Sailors, and my ultimate goal is to become a command master chief. As a command master chief, you have a large role in shaping today’s Sailors, including how they get trained. It’s sort of like a teacher and a technical expert wrapped into one. I have been in the Military for about 13.5 years now, and if I make master chief soon, I will probably end up staying in more than 20 years.
It’s amazing the opportunities being in the Military provides. Even before we get out, we have civilian recruiters approaching us. As a leading chief, since I deal with managing people, I could roll into any civilian managerial job. I’ve done a lot of work in cyber protection, and civilian information security is huge these days.
But being in the Military, I get to do missions that civilians could never do. And every day is different. I just really enjoy my job.