By Roger Teel
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 17, 2009 - When the Army became her vehicle seven years ago, Sgt. Gabrielle M. Martinez got behind the wheel, fastened her seat belt and ignited the engine. Then she put her foot on the gas. She didn't just come along for the ride. Now assigned as an information systems analyst and operator with a 20th Support Command weapons-of-mass-destruction coordination element, Martinez makes an impact on nearly everyone she meets.
"She doesn't shy away from challenges," said Army 1st Sgt. Tamiko Bogad, her former unit first sergeant. "She meets them head-on."
Martinez is matter-of-fact about her duties: "Whatever needs to be done," she said. She exhibits more enthusiasm for her "additional duties."
Since arriving in October, Martinez has helped to fine-tune the unit's physical fitness program and assumed leadership of the unit color guard. During her limited free time, she earned a college degree.
By many accounts, she is a role model for other soldiers.
"She is an example of what the Army can provide to our young citizens," Bogad said. "She realizes all the opportunities the Army has to offer and allows the Army to challenge her and realize the potential within."
Martinez derives great pleasure from helping Army Sgt. Jason Bedoya to run the unit PT program.
"Motivating others to achieve their fitness goals and improve their health and overall well-being is rewarding," Martinez said. "To see other soldiers succeed -- especially when they thought they wouldn't, or couldn't, or have given up and gotten discouraged -- that's very rewarding.
"It's good to give back especially in an area where I have natural ability," she added, emphasizing that Bedoya leads the PT program.
"It's his program," she said. "My support provides an even return for having his support on the color guard."
"She keeps everybody going," Bedoya said. "She's outgoing. She makes it fun, always cracking jokes. She challenges me as well, always throwing out new ideas, new ways we can do things, new exercises. And she really helps a lot of our soldiers."
Martinez's endeavor into drill and ceremony, calling cadence for the color guard, came at the recommendation of her supervisor, Army Master Sgt. Charesse Blood.
"The first sergeant was asking for volunteers, and Master Sergeant Blood said it would probably be a good idea for me. She said she had similar responsibilities when she was coming up and said it's a great learning experience and also a challenge. She inspired me, and I volunteered," Martinez explained.
"The challenging part is keeping everyone motivated to perform and coordinating with the community for rehearsals," she said. "I'm currently searching for more volunteers. I've also been looking for incentives to make it lucrative for high quality volunteers because they are very much needed. But the people we have are very dedicated."
Honor and tradition are being preserved under Martinez's charge, Bogad said. "She effortlessly lives and breathes our Army Values and the Noncommissioned Officer Creed," he added.
"I have to juggle all these things carefully so I don't miss training and still provide leadership to the color guard and be there for the PT program," Martinez said. "There's a lot of juggling of responsibilities as an NCO."
Martinez grew up in Pottstown, Pa., about a two-hour drive north of here.
"My father is still there," she said. "I have 15 brothers and sisters; I'm in the middle."
The lessons she learned growing up in a large family are apparent.
"I always felt like I was a member of a team," she said, smiling at the memory. Her siblings range in age from 4 to 43. "It's hard to keep a relationship with a sister who is 40 years old. I'm 27. She was ready to move out of the house by the time I came along."
Martinez said her father coordinates an annual family gathering.
"Whoever shows up shows up," she said. "We never get everybody there together at once."
None of her brothers or sisters served in the military.
"I'm the first in my family to graduate from college," she added, proud of achieving an academic goal. She graduated in May from American Military University, earning a bachelor's degree - with honors -- in information technology.
"My mom was there for my graduation," she added, re-emphasizing the importance she attaches to family ties. "I'd like to complete my master's program in an in-your-face, traditional classroom," she continued, having earned her bachelor's degree online. "I'm taking a break now and identifying future endeavors."
It's been seven years since Martinez visited a Miami recruiting center. At that time she was working as a certified nurse's assistant, going to school and trying to become a model -- and things weren't working out.
So, she raised her hand.
Martinez has since traveled around the world. After completing basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., and advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga., she was assigned to Mannheim, Germany, for two years, which included a short tour to Kuwait with the 7th Signal Brigade.
She took a follow-on overseas assignment to South Korea for 13 months, and then re-enlisted for retraining in her current job specialty. She then ramped up at the National Training Center and deployed to Iraq for 15 months with the 3rd Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
"It's worked out for me. I've developed a lot of pride in what I do. I'm glad I did it, and I now plan to be a career soldier," Martinez said, thumbing the Officer Candidate School packet she was almost ready to submit.
"Airborne school has to come in there somewhere," she added, underscoring her desire to remain a "Hooah!" soldier.
"I believe in myself," she explained. "As I continue to create and explore opportunities, I know things will work out."
Her professional development is clearly evident to others.
"She has been diligent about requesting increased responsibility, and has consistently performed above and beyond her grade," Blood said. "She's focused on accomplishment of the mission and the welfare of her soldiers."
Her former first sergeant agreed. "As senior NCOs, we provide opportunities for our soldiers to succeed," Bogad said. "It is our duty to help them realize their own potential, which is usually more than they thought they had. Sergeant Martinez inspires others through her example. She sets the standard for excellence. She achieves all you put before her, and all she puts her mind to."
"She's definitely got her mind in the right place," added Bedoya, a young and newly promoted NCO. "She can do so much more. I look at her and think, 'That's someone I could emulate.'"
Martinez takes the praise in stride. "I just want to positively influence people," she said. "I feel like I owe that to soldiers, my peers and anybody I can motivate to go to school, to work on their PT, or just try a little harder in whatever situation they're in. I feel like I owe that to people because leaders have given that to me so freely.
"Besides," she added, "who am I not to share?"
(Roger Teel works at 20th Support Command.)