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NEWS | Nov. 29, 2022

Profiles in Professionalism: Master-at-Arms 1st Class Tony Yoon

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Word

U.S. Navy Master-at-Arms 1st Class Tony Yoon, a Navy Reserve Sailor from Winchester, California, currently deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, where he is attached to the security department, has a long history of service to his country. Whether it has been patrolling the streets of New York City as a member of the New York City Police Department (NYPD), or being a member of the United States military, he has proudly given back to the country that he says has given him and his family a chance for a better life.

“It was in 1990 that my parents, my brother and I immigrated to the United States and settled down in Queens, New York,” said Yoon. “It was tough in the beginning, because obviously I had to learn a new language, a new culture, make new friends, but we had a good family support system. It made the transition easier.”

Yoon and his family arrived in the U.S. when he was 12. Seven years later, he began his career in the military.

“I joined the Marine Corps Reserve when I was 19 following in my father’s footsteps,” said Yoon. “I started in the Marine Corps because my father was a marine in Korea. He was a combat veteran, and he fought in the Vietnam War in ’67 right next to U.S. Marines.

“Then I went to the Army National Guard as an infantry man for three years. I took a 12 year break in service while I was dating my girlfriend at the time—we’re married now—and then I came into the Navy Reserve in 2019.”

Upon joining the Navy Reserve, Yoon became a Master-at-Arms (MA). The MA rating is responsible for providing the Navy with security specialists who provide antiterrorism, law enforcement and force protection on land and at sea. It was a natural fit for Yoon.

“When I came back into the service,” said Yoon. “I chose the Navy Reserve because the Navy has this great program called Direct Procurement Enlistment Program (DPEP) where the Navy looks into incoming Sailor’s civilian side training and experience. I was accepted into navy as an E-6/MA1 which was a promotion from the rank I held from my previous branch of service.”

“I have a civilian law enforcement background,” said Yoon. “I was a cop for 20 years with NYPD. I did 12 years of patrol, six years as a NYPD special operations scuba team member, another three years with an antiterrorism maritime team, and I retired as a counterterrorism detective. With that law enforcement background, I was leaning more towards becoming law enforcement personnel with the Navy.”

As a first-year rookie in the NYPD, Yoon recalls the day that New York City was brought to a standstill.

“I joined the NYPD September 29, 2000,” said Yoon. “Pretty much a year before the towers went down. I was assigned to a precinct in Manhattan North. I worked the 4:00PM to 12:00AM shift, so I was sleeping. My brother woke me up saying the tower just got hit by a plane. I watched the news and I remember watching the second plane hit the second tower, then I knew that I have to go to work. So, I put my clothes on and went to work early just like any other cop in New York City. I went out on patrol, and I remember finding the tallest building in Manhattan North, which was actually in West Harlem, and you could kind of see the downtown from that building on the roof. Looking towards downtown, you could see the smoke rising from that location. It was definitely a shocking feeling.”

May is officially recognized as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and is a time to reflect on the many contributions members of the AAPI community have made to the history of the United States. Yoon is proud of his Korean heritage, but he is also proud to be an American.

“I am Asian, and I’m also America,” said Yoon. “It is good to recognize Asian American’s contribution to our nation. We are a melting pot of all backgrounds. It is good to look around and appreciate the different cultures and different ethnicities coming together and building our nation as strong as we can. I was a naturalized citizen. I chose to become American, which I am really proud of. I am thankful that there is a month dedicated to my ethnicity, but most importantly, I want to be recognized as an American. I am here. I am wearing the same uniform supporting our nation, so I am thankful.”

With his many years of dedication to the country in law enforcement and the military, Yoon is eager to continue to serve, and he believes that any citizen may find a sense of pride in choosing to raise their right hand.

“Serving in the military in general is a good thing,” said Yoon. “Like many people, I joined the military at an early age. I took a twelve year break in service, and I came back because I wanted it back. I wanted that lifestyle of serving the nation in a military uniform. I think if a young person sees this article, they should think about it. This is something that everyone should be proud of doing. As an immigrant to this great nation, I wanted to show my gratitude to our nation giving me the right to become a citizen. In a way, I owe this nation. I think that’s the way a lot of people should feel: feeling grateful.”

Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti serves as an expeditionary base for U.S. military forces providing support to ships, aircraft, and personnel that ensure security and stability throughout Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. The Department of Defense supports our African partners with capacity building, strengthening defense institutions, and supporting a whole-of government approach in the region so diplomatic and developmental solutions can take root.