Prologue: In the midst of writing this article, we received a phone call from my 31 year old son to wish me a Happy Father’s Day. It is always a pleasant surprise to get a phone call from my busy son who has achieved some amazing success in the tough restaurant business in New York City. He has been living his dream working in world-class establishments in the most exciting food city in the world. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic. The forced time off has given him the chance to reassess the world of commercial cooking and his future in it. He believes the transition of the industry to automated, robotic food preparation is accelerating and will arrive much sooner than any of us would have believed. His conclusion is that computer programmers will soon be more important in an increasing digital food industry than human sous chefs. What really surprised me was his next statement; he had done some research and was looking into a career in the military as a way of getting the training and experience he needed to enter the digital workforce, not to mention health benefits that have so far been unavailable in the food services industry. Wow!
When most recruits are 18 or 19 years old, entering the military at the age of 31 poses some special challenges. In addition to the obvious lifestyle changes, entering a totally new profession at the bottom rung and working for young managers can be a bit of a shock. As I tried to provide advice to my son, we reflected on the fortunate coincidence of recently interviewing a woman who met her life’s similar challenges by enlisting in the U.S. Navy at the age of 32. 21 years later, Denise Martin is preparing to transition back to civilian life after a successful military career by joining her husband in starting a hunting-focused physical training and guide business in Eastern Washington. And, now we circle back to our topic – the interesting and unique career trails taken by women in outdoor sports.
Her Best is Yet to Come
ss Communications Specialist First Class (MC1) Denise Martin grew up fishing and camping
with her Navy family at various duty stations on both coasts of the United States. Early on, she developed a fascination with photography which progressed from a serious hobby to a 21-year long career. In her early 30s as a single mom, she turned to the Navy for education, work experience, and a steady paycheck. After graduating from Navy Boot Camp at Naval Station Great Lakes outside Chicago and being assigned as a Photographer’s Mate, she headed out to her first
assignment at Naval Air Station (NAS) Lemoore, California, 45 minutes south of Fresno. NAS Lemoore is home to the west coast strike-fighter community consisting of F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. Navy photographers work primarily out of base public affairs offices documenting Navy life for internal and external publications. They also provide official photographic record in accident and criminal investigations and other official tasks. One of the perks of working at a Navy Master Jet Base like NAS Lemoore was the opportunity for Denise to get a “backseat” qualification allowing her to fly and take photographs and videos in two-seat versions of ejection seat-equipped tactical aircraft like the Hornet. She also flew with NAS Lemoore’s search and rescue (SAR) helicopter detachment that has responsibility for rescuing Navy aircrew involved in aircraft accidents from the central California Pacific coast to Death Valley. In addition to their Navy mission, NAS Lemoore SAR can respond to civilian emergency situations which allowed Denise to record rescues of lost and injured hikers and mountain climbers throughout the central Sierra-Nevada Mountains.
The September 11 attacks occurred during Denise’s first assignment, putting the entire U.S.
military on a war footing, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. After initial combat operations concluded and U.S. forces began the long-term effort to stabilize the situation in both countries, Navy specialists were sent as Individual Augmentees to support Army and Marine Corps combat support units in positions where their normal Navy functions matched up with ground force positions. Denise enthusiastically volunteered and was the first woman to be part of one of the earliest groups of Navy augmentees. After Army indoctrination and weapons training, Denise was sent to Iraq as part of a combat camera unit to record combat and sustainment operations. This required her to perform her normal photographer functions armed and in full combat gear. Denise qualified in every weapon associated with a U.S. Army infantry
squad to include personal weapons such as the M9 sidearm and M4 carbine, but also light and heavy machine guns and grenade launchers. Based on her training success and experience, Denise was assigned to Navy SEAL Team 3 based in the Norfolk, Virginia area and later assigned to work with other Navy Special Operations units in San Diego, California. She again deployed to Iraq and was the first female to accompany SEAL teams “outside the wire” on actual combat raiding missions.
She followed her work with the SEAL Teams with an assignment to Sicily and duty in a joint-service Tactical Mobile Radio and Television Station unit documenting the of joint and coalition forces all over the Middle East, Central Asia and the former Soviet Republics. One memorable assignment in 2008 took her to Tbilisi, in the Republic of Georgia, where she and her team witnessed, close-at-hand, the invasion of that newly independent nation by Russian troops and armor.