By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Craig Z. Rodarte, Commander, Navy Reserve Force Public Affairs
Now a surface warfare-qualified hospital corpsman 2nd class at Navy Region Southeast, Reserve Component Command Jacksonville, Schwartz recently reflected on his 13-year Navy career with a newfound appreciation for the way it all began.
Originally from New Mexico, Schwartz eventually moved to California to attend high school. According to Schwartz, attend may be an overstatement. Admittedly, he did not put much effort into his high school education until it was almost too late.
“In high school I was a little bit of a troublemaker,” said Schwartz. “I didn’t really decide I wanted to graduate until the last couple of years, and a lot of that has to do with a very well-timed career day.”
Schwartz had always idolized his father, a 10-year Navy submariner, but hadn’t ever considered a career in the Navy until he spoke to a recruiter at a fateful high school job fair. The Navy recruiter sparked his interest, but let the young man know in no uncertain terms that he was not on a successful track. However, he offered the possibility that Schwartz could one day become a Sailor if he dug in and put his energy into school.
During the conversation with the recruiter, Schwartz shared several of his father’s sea stories. The discussion inspired him, and by the end of the day, he had made a firm decision to change the trajectory of his life by following in his father’s footsteps.
Schwartz said he’ll never forget his father’s reaction.
“My father’s jaw dropped,” he said. “He jumped out of his chair so we could plan how to turn my academic career around.”
Schwartz said his academic rehabilitation required persistence, grit and determination.
“I had a full schedule of classes and enrolled into night school for most of my junior and senior years,” he said.
The work paid off. He soon graduated and was on his way to the Navy as an undesignated seaman — eventually striking into the boatswain’s mate rating.
It was during his time serving on the decks of warships as a boatswain’s mate that Schwartz knew he’d truly found a home as a Sailor.
“I finally found my place in the organization I was a part of,” said Schwartz. “I felt like a single cell working in an organism when I was out to sea. That was one of the most meaningful, down-to-earth, bring-me-back-home feelings I have ever had in the Navy.”
Schwartz completed an eight-year active-duty career, which included two sea tours, earning him an honorable discharge and a return to civilian life. Best of all, he would now be able to share a few sea stories of his own.
While working as a civilian medical assistant in Jacksonville, he met his future wife and, as two children came into the picture, Schwartz decided to return to service on a part-time basis, embarking on an entirely different career as a Reserve hospital corpsman.
Schwartz said his Reserve rating change paid immediate and lasting dividends.
“I would say my civilian and Reserve career worked in harmony,” he said, “because I was able to take my skills as a hospital corpsman and apply them directly back to Navy medicine as a civilian at the Navy hospital in Jacksonville.”
From one storied rating to another, Schwarz’s journey continues to trend up and away from his days as a young teenager on a wayward path.
“I’m very proud of my rate,” said Schwartz. “I’m a piece of the most decorated rate in the Navy,” We are everywhere the Navy is and we have to be adaptable.”
Schwartz’s career has taken him to more than 15 countries and given him purpose and direction that has helped him and his family.
“The Navy and the Navy Reserve have offered me opportunities to discover who I am and what I want to do,” said Schwartz. “I cannot thank them enough for giving me the stepping stones to take care of myself and my family.”
Schwartz says his sights are now set on being the best full-time support corpsman and giving back the direction and leadership he has received to his junior Sailors.