By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Scott Wichmann, Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command Public Affairs
Returning home to Houston, Texas for the first time after joining the Navy, Luna recalled the surprised reaction of her family and friends after she explained that her new job included operating her ship’s most imposing looking weapon, the Mark 45 5-inch gun.
“They were like, ‘There is no way this little girl we used to know, who was timid and soft-spoken, is dealing with guns and teaching people how to shoot,’” Luna said. “It was kind of hard for some people to even believe.”
Luna matched the challenge of her rate with her enthusiasm.
“I love being a gunner’s mate, she said. “As a woman, a lot of people didn’t expect that of me.”
In her first active duty assignment aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61), Luna worked hard to overcome any perceived limitations from the rest of her team.
“When I got moved to the armory, I was the only female there,” she said. “There were a bunch of guys who’d tried out for special warfare programs, so they were really into working out all the time. I’m definitely the type of person that likes to take any challenge, especially if there’s a question of me being a woman and being able to keep up with those guys.”
Luna routinely pushed herself to match the rest of the team’s workouts. “Soon it went from working out on the ship to working out in the gym to doing beach runs,” she said. “They definitely taught me a lot when it came to my own health.”
“Now, when I work out, it’s not because I want to look good, it’s because I want to feel good,” she said. “As a gunner’s mate, you have to lift a lot of heavy things, like ammo cans and 72 pound. rounds when loading that five-inch gun. I definitely didn’t want to be a hindrance to the group when it came to hard labor.”
Armed with four full years of Navy experience, Luna recently stepped off the brow of the Monterey at the end of her active duty contract to begin a new chapter as a Navy Reserve Sailor.
“The Reserve will be a very different experience,” she said, “but I’m excited for it.”
Luna is excited to bring her experience, leadership and rating expertise to her new unit.
“I did a lot of gun shoots, trained a lot of people in the use of the M9 pistol and Mark 45, and also worked a lot with torpedoes,” she said. While attached to the Monterey, Luna said she grew from each new opportunity to lead Sailors.
“I‘d never been put in a leadership position before,” she said. “I had to figure out my leadership style, but a lot of people helped me out with that. I was very close to my chain of command, my work center, we absolutely love each other, we’re still super close.”
During her tour, Luna was promoted to work center supervisor and later assigned to the armory, where she supervised maintenance and training on both small arms and several crew-served weapons — weapons demanding multiple personnel to utilize due to their operational complexity.
Her leadership and expertise played a part in the ship receiving the prestigious Arizona Memorial Trophy, an award recognizing the best-performing, combat-ready crew among Navy surface ships.
With her shifting responsibilities as a Reservist, Luna is looking forward to applying her leadership skills to a slightly less lethal focus.
She is currently working on several teaching certifications with the goal of pursuing a career in childhood home education, or working with social services to help children who are in need — two service tracks which interested her in the days and weeks before her initial active duty enlistment.
“I absolutely love children,” she said. “I appreciate having this chance to go back to those roots and rediscover who I was when I was younger and pursue the things I was interested in then.”
Another of Luna’s discoveries is the freedom available in the Reserve to build a civilian life away from the operational demands of the active duty Navy — like the time for new hobbies, routines and even her two new cats, Pluto and Simon.
“I’ve tried cooking, and I’m trying to take that to a different level,” she said. “I’m really into house plants and having greenery and life in my house; I’m kind of a ‘cat mom’ now.”
She’s also excited about the opportunity to connect with her family on a more regular basis, something she wasn’t always able to do in her days at sea on active duty.
“I honestly love how close I am to my family, my mom, my dad and my sister,” she said. “They’re everything to me, so making them proud means a lot.”