News: Former San Antonio Resident Now A Top Enlisted Leader For U.S. Navy in Middle East
By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (SW) Eric Brown
MANAMA, Bahrain - In 1984, Marco Ramirez was not sure what he wanted to do with his life. A few years earlier, he graduated from Alamo Heights High School, where he'd played baseball and football for the "Mules." He was now 21, attending San Antonio Community College, working at the post office, and had submitted an application with the local fire department.
"I just wanted to go out and do something different," Ramirez remembered.
Then he decided to join the U.S. Navy - an unusual choice, considering that San Antonio's military community is dominated by the Air Force. Additionally, Ramirez's father, Alonzo, who now resides in Schertz, Texas, was a career Air Force man.
He recalled that his mother, Lupe Ingle, and stepfather, Robert Ingle, who still live in San Antonio, were a bit upset by his decision at first.
"Joining the Navy was unheard of," he said. "But my family was - and still is - very supportive.
"It was an impulse choice, but I ended up staying."
More than a quarter of a century later, Ramirez is still in the Navy. On Jan. 14, he reported to Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet as the staff command master chief, and oversees almost 300 junior enlisted service members from all branches of the U.S. military.
The service members and civilians at NAVCENT support all naval operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which includes a 5 million square mile area encompassing the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and parts of the Indian Ocean as well as Iraq and Afghanistan. On any given day, there are about 25,000 personnel assigned to the NAVCENT area of responsibility.
Ramirez and his family love their new home on the 400-square-mile Island of Bahrain, where NAVCENT is headquartered.
"I like the values the Bahrainis have to offer and pass on," he said. "They constantly think about their religion and reflect upon it, and they live by their morals. It forces us to recognize that, which makes us a little more conservative in our dress and behavior. It's a constant reminder to do what is right."
The Kingdom of Bahrain ("Kingdom of the Two Seas" in Arabic) is an archipelago of 33 islands in the Persian Gulf, to the east of Saudi Arabia. The country's one million inhabitants primarily practice Islam, and speak Arabic and English. Oil and pearls are produced in abundance, and temperatures can soar above 130 F.
Ramirez really enjoys his job at NAVCENT because it allows him to "make sure that we have combat-ready Sailors in the busiest theater in the world. I have to ensure our Sailors stay focused, and ready for the fight."
His own path toward becoming a "combat-ready Sailor" began during boot camp at Recruit Training Command in Great Lakes, Il. Upon graduation from Company 161, he attended the Navy's service school in Lakehurst, N.J., for aviation boatswains mate (equipment), where he learned the basics of operating and maintaining the steam catapults and arresting gear used for launching and recovering jets aboard aircraft carriers.
In December of 1984, Ramirez reported to his first duty station, the world's first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise. His job was to operate the 110-foot-long catapult on the flight deck to launch jets, such as F-14 Tomcats, which could achieve end speeds up to 180 knots per hour in two seconds. "It was hot, it was loud, it was dirty, and it was crazy!" he fondly recalled. "I was part of a team that launched 60 jets - and then caught all 60 - within an hour. We broke some records that day."
About a year after joining the Navy, Ramirez married his high school sweetheart, Marian Castillo. Today, the couple have three children: Morgan, 21, Madison, 12, and Marco, 3.
During his five years aboard USS Enterprise, he advanced to petty officer second class. In 1989, he transferred to Naval Air Station Miramar, in San Diego. There, he applied to convert to a new job specialty, a legalman. His efforts paid off less than two years later, when he compled his training at Naval Justice School at Newport, R.I., in April, 1991. As a legalman (the Navy's version of a paralegal), Ramirez received extensive military justice training in administrative and civil law, substantive and procedural law, court-martial procedures and nonjudicial punishment, qualifying him to work under the supervision of an attorney.
Since then, Ramirez has served at duty stations in Australia, Japan, Italy, Iraq and aboard USS Carl Vinson. His accomplishments have been widely recognized: in 1993 and 1994 he was nominated for Outstanding Legalman of the Year; in 1996, while serving in Bremerton, Wash., he was selected as the Command Sailor of the Year, and Navy Legal Service Command Sailor of the Year.
Academically, he pursued a dual major in psychology and business management, and earned a bachelor's degree of science from the University of Maryland in May, 2000. Ramirez's personal awards include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, three Navy Commendation Medals, five Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals and six Good Conduct Medals.
NAVCENT/5th Fleet's Chief of Staff Capt. Bradley Russell said Ramirez's sterling reputation preceded him to the command. "He's a Sailor's Sailor, a no-nonsense kind of guy who's looking out for his Sailors," Bradley noted. "He brings to the table a deep and abiding concern for our people, an enthusiasm for his job and an unbounded amount of energy."
Ramirez will serve two years at the command, and hasn't yet decided what he and his family would like to do next in his Navy career. "I would love to be the command master chief aboard an aircraft carrier, but a part of me wants to remain here in Bahrain," he said.
He also thinks about trying to get stationed closer to San Antonio.
"I really miss Texas brisket, bluebonnets, Texas oak trees and Whataburger," he said. "But most of all, I would like to be able to spend more time with my parents and extended family."
The keys to his personal success are simple, Ramirez said. "I want to better lives and positively influence people," he explained. "I make each day my masterpiece, always take the high road, and treat people with respect."
It is these characteristics that make Ramirez the ideal command master chief, Bradley said. "And, he's always got a smile on his face."