Feature Article
 
Published in the Ventura County Star local newspaper and several Navy publications, including the Sentinel, a Command magazine at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC); the Lighthouse, official newspaper at NBVC; and the Naval Sea Systems Newswire. This is one of over 400 technical and feature articles I've had published in various Navy publications.

NAVSEA Port Hueneme employee awarded Bronze Star while serving in Iraq

 

     George Martinez, Technical Manual Editor for Naval Systems Data Support Activity (NSDSA), recently returned to NAVSEA Port Hueneme after a 16-month tour of duty in Iraq. Stationed in Baghdad, Martinez served as Master Sergeant and was recently promoted to 1st Sergeant in the Army National Guard’s 250th Military Intelligence Unit. In addition to 1st Sergeant, Martinez also served as Convoy Commander and is now in charge of Intelligence Collectors and Interpreters. His duties included sending human tactical teams out to pick up insurgents and collect weapon cachets, attempting to minimize casualty rates. Martinez spent much of his time with convoys that traveled in areas notorious for enemy mortar attacks – an effort which earned him the Bronze Star, a high military honor.

     While in Iraq, Martinez traveled over 280,000 miles in 28 armored vehicles in extremely challenging weather. A typical day’s temperature topped 130 degrees, and well over 150 degrees inside a Humvee. If the heat wasn’t bad enough, he and the members of his battalion each carried close to 60 pounds of body armor, helmets, weapons, and equipment. They also experienced severe sandstorms in which they could see only three feet in front of them. Although they constantly remained vigilant to danger, unfortunately, some members of his battalion were badly wounded by Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), more commonly known as roadside bombs.

     One rewarding aspect of Martinez’s tour of duty was supplying schools in Baghdad with pencils, paper, books, and other supplies donated by Americans. He remembered how the Iraqi children would run up to the soldiers and say, “I love American GIs!” as his battalion tossed them candy and even their own MREs.

     For two weeks out of the year, the troops stationed in Iraq were able to return home on leave to see their families. During one of Martinez’s visits back to the U.S., he was extremely touched to find a group of WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War veterans waiting at the airport to support and to thank the returning troops. Many of the veterans were elderly, some were in wheelchairs, but nevertheless, they came to honor the men and women fighting overseas.

     “It humbles you,” said Martinez. “After everything they’ve done, they still came to honor us.”

     Martinez comes from a family that highly regards military service; all five of his brothers have served. He mentioned, “For soldiers, the hardest part is being away from family.” It was, of course, a difficult time for his family as well. He remembered how they would worry about him every time they heard a report on CNN about soldiers being wounded, or worse. Fortunately, the Army offered counseling services to both him and his family, a service that proved helpful.

     He met his wife Cathy, who was also employed at NAVSEA Port Hueneme, 27 years ago and then soon after, he joined the Army National Guard. Before his recent promotion to 1st Sergeant, he served as Battalion Mortar Officer and Platoon Sergeant. This tour of duty in Iraq was Martinez’s second mobilization. The first was after September 11, 2001 during Operation Noble Eagle where he was called upon as a member of the National Guard, to ensure airport security. He served from October 2001 to June 2002.

     Martinez has worked at NAVSEA Port Hueneme for 31 years. In addition to serving as Technical Manual Editor for NSDSA, he is also the lead point of contact for SPAWAR in regards to technical manuals. He was very grateful to his NSDSA co-workers for sending care packages to him while he was in Iraq. Simple things like tissues, gum, and basic toiletries become luxuries to soldiers on deployment.

     “Keep supporting the troops – no matter how you feel about the war,” Martinez strongly insists.

     Witnessing and participating in war had profound effects on Martinez. He’s still trying to adjust to the mundane aspects of life and the slower pace, as well as to all the changes that occurred in the 16 months that he was away. His experience has helped him put little annoyances into perspective, as they seem inconsequential now. While in Iraq, his gun was his security blanket – he carried it with him everywhere. He grew so accustomed to having it by his side that even though he’s back in the safety of his own home and his own country, Martinez, a man who has never owned a gun before, now considers getting one to alleviate the feeling that he’s missing something.

     “I’m not too macho to admit that I was scared almost everyday,” revealed Martinez. “It was a long year.”

     In addition to the Bronze Star, Martinez was awarded several other medals during his 16-month tour including: the Army Commendation Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, the Army Reserve Medal with M Device, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Driver’s Badge, and the Mechanic’s Badge.

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