I was concerned about my future career at the hometown paper mill in Maine. I was married and had children. I needed some education and a job so I enlisted in the Marine Corps with a guarantee to work in aviation and was selected for air traffic control. After basic training, I went to school in Glencoe, GA, to learn tower and radar air traffic control. Since federal licenses are needed for this type of work, I also earned my Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operator’s certificate. Obtaining my FAA operator’s license started me on the road toward becoming FAA qualified to work in air traffic control. In New River, NC, I was a tower air traffic controller trainee. I started in ground control, but soon my duties expanded to include local control (control in the air within a 5-mile radius of the airfield). I also passed my test to become FAA qualified in tower control and for the New River tower. I then became watch supervisor at the facility. In my 2 years at New River, I advanced from private first class through sergeant.
I continued to expand my qualifications at my next duty station in Okinawa. There, I became qualified in radar control and facility rated, which meant that I could work any air traffic control position in the facility. I also spent a short time in Yuma, AZ, as a controller and was promoted to staff sergeant. The next 8 years went fast. My assignments were split between Japan and New River. Sometimes I only spent a year in one place, and had to requalify to work at each new facility, but my career was taking off. I was promoted to gunnery sergeant and moved into positions of greater responsibility: from radar controller and assistant approach controller, to facility watch supervisor, to senior enlisted person at his facility.
When I was finally assigned to a three-year tour in Kaneohe, HI, I was a crew chief and radar approach controller. Now I am Gunnery Sergeant Martínez, a crew chief at Cherry Point, NC. I qualified in the radar air traffic control facility and am working to qualify as a radar approach controller as well. I will be retiring soon, but believe that I have done well in a sometimes hectic career.