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NEWS | July 29, 2021

Sailor, Marine, Photographer: a Journey of Goals and Growth

By Lt. Travis Weger

Born on Nov. 10, the Marine Corps birthday, in Oceanside, California, home of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the stars aligned for Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jen S. Martinez, formerly Marine Staff Sergeant Martinez, to join the U.S. Marine Corps. After almost a decade serving on active duty, she transferred to the Navy Reserve. 

Originally slated to join as a combat engineer, Martinez started her career in strategic communications after her recruiter asked if she enjoyed telling stories and taking photographs. 

“I really developed my passion for taking photos in middle school,” said Martinez. “I would have heaps of disposable cameras waiting to be developed. Photography was just something I’ve always been drawn to and when I found out it was something I could do in the military, I jumped on it as soon as I could.”

After high school, she joined the Marine Corps for the structure and mentioned the way that they tackle problems head-on was something that she needed at the time. 

Of Okinawan descent, one of her first duty stations was with III Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, which afforded her the ability to visit family on the island for the first time in almost two decades. 

After years of working with Defense Media Activity and several other commands, she set her eyes on finishing her degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she is currently completing her undergraduate degree in journalism with an emphasis on social media and podcasting. 

Finishing her degree was a promise to her parents that she wanted to fulfill. Focusing on school also gave her an opportunity to fixate on her personal goals and growth. 

“Mental health is very important to me,” she said. “The reserve gives me an opportunity to focus on the parts of the military that I really enjoy, while being able to take a step back and concentrate on myself and finishing my degree.”

Martinez set her eyes on the Navy Reserve after a desire to learn more about naval tradition. She describes it as newness and potential for growth in her new career with the Navy. 

In March 2020, she joined the Navy Office of Information, U.S. Pacific Fleet, where she serves in the production department. 

While on her first annual training, she served as a member of the Combined Joint Information Bureau for Exercise Talisman Sabre 21 in Australia. Throughout the exercise, she has traveled across the country to tell the story of the partnership between the U.S., Australia, and other participating nations. 

“It’s funny to be off active duty for a little bit, fall right back into what I’m used to and be with my military family,” said Martinez. “It’s like a light just switched on and I never left.” 

She describes the Navy Reserve as an organization that is familiar and provides security while she is in school. Martinez also recommends for those transferring off of active duty to consider transferring to the reserve for the opportunities it provides. 

“Even if it’s just a weekend a month or an annual training a year, being able to go back and see my military brothers and sisters is always worth it,” said Martinez. “The reserve gives that connection and it’s strengthening. This is all the stuff I missed doing while I was a Marine and I’m really happy I get to have it back in my life.”

Talisman Sabre 21 is a large-scale, bilateral military exercise conducted biennially across Northern Australia designed to enhance the U.S.-Australia alliance which is an anchor of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific. Exercises like this provide effective and intense training to ensure the forces are capable, interoperable, responsive, and combat-ready.