By Chief Mass Communication Specialist Scott Wichmann, Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO — When Marcia Villavicencio was in eighth grade, her cross country coach volunteered her to run a race which, unbeknownst to her, was essentially a half-marathon.
“I didn’t know how far I was supposed to run,” she said. “I just concentrated on running as fast as I could as far as I could. I knew if I just did that, something good would happen.”
Villavicencio kept moving forward with a steady determination, eventually finishing in second place.
Today, Ensign Villavicencio is still moving forward, setting and achieving goals with a tenacious spirit that has propelled her on a journey from E-1 to O-1, undesignated seaman to Navy role model, and from fitness fanatic to small business owner — and she’s just getting started.
“I want to help open some doors for young Latina and gay women out there that might be thinking ‘I could never get to that point,’” said Villavicencio. “I’d like to be able to bring more diversity into the Navy, and I think I’m able to do that just by being myself.”
Joining the active duty Navy as an undesignated seaman, Villavicencio immediately set her sights on becoming a gunner’s mate.
Villavicencio soon found herself the only female GM aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Halsey (DDG 97). She credits her male counterparts for not only helping her add weight training to her workout regimen, making her a stronger Sailor, but for also unflinchingly accepting her for who she is.
“Those guys were like my big brothers,” she said. “They taught me the ropes and they made me better.”
After completion of her active duty enlistment, Villavicencio transferred to the Reserve component. Unfortunately, the GM rating was closed on the Reserve side, so she cross-rated to yeoman (YN). By that time, however, Villavicencio had two other goals in mind: earning a journalism degree and working towards a commission as an officer.
As Villavicencio achieved each new career and life goal, she faced the pressures of increased responsibility waiting for her on the other side — something she credits her wife with helping her manage through use of a unique set of motivational techniques.
“She tells me ‘you got commissioned, you have a role and a responsibility and this is who you are,’” recalled Villavicencio. “She gives me that strength. Whenever I have a setback, she tells me ‘It’s okay, you can whine about it for a day, but tomorrow is a new day.’”
Villavicencio took the positive reinforcement she’d received in her life — from both the Navy and her spouse — and weaved them into a career as a certified fitness specialist and life coach.
“People say to me ‘you don’t take a break,’” she said. “But I just try to show people how to put fitness and a positive mindset together.”
Last year, she took her positive pro-fitness message to the fleet, starring in a MyNavyHR fitness video inspiring Sailors to get moving on their own during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Villavicencio says a constant source of stability in a life filled with challenges and commitments has been the integration of her family life with her Navy career, something that wasn’t always an option for military members in the LGBT community.
“It’s such a huge privilege to be able to bring my wife to events with me and just be like ‘this is my wife,’ and everyone is cool with it,” she said. “I can’t imagine having a wife and having a life that you have to keep separate from the Navy, having to keep that hushed.”
Villavicencio said whether meeting career milestones or achieving educational and professional goals, she hopes to continue to move forward by encouraging others through action and authenticity.
“The more you’re out there, the more you’re yourself, the better it is,” she said. “I’ve gotten lots of messages from several women who’ve told me ‘you’re such an inspiration, I can see that you did it, so I know I can do it, too.’”
According to Villavicencio, at the end of the day, it all boils down to one simple truth.
“It’s awesome to be able to be accepted for who you are,” she said.