Photo Information

CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq - CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq - Staff Sgt. Candelario Martinez Jr., 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's career retention specialist, back left, reads a certificate of re-enlistment for Cpl. Anthony Booker, front right. Martinez, a 35-year-old Eagle Pass, Texas native, assists his fellow Marines plan their future careers, whether inside the military or out in the civilian world.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Eagle Pass Marine: “I’m all about service.”

4 Jul 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

From sunrise to well past sundown, Staff Sgt. Candelario Martinez can always be found sifting though paperwork and hammering keystrokes on his field workstation’s laptop computer. Even after putting in a typical 14-hour workday, he’s still laughing and joking with coworkers and comrades. With a smile on his face and a positive attitude, the Eagle Pass, Texas native lives everyday with a purpose: to help his fellow Marines tackle the challenges life presents inside and outside the military. “That’s just the way I am; I love to help people,” stated the 35-year-old career retention specialist with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, which is currently conducting counter-insurgency operations in Fallujah. Every day, Martinez interviews several Marines from his battalion, discussing with them the possibilities of pursuing a career within the Corps. He makes it his “personal mission” to retain as many Marines as possible within the brotherhood that is the Marines. “I feel that for the first four years (an average length of enlistment), they’re not going to be able to meet the goals they originally came in for,” Martinez continued. “For the majority of them, this is their first time away from home, and they don’t like what they see. That’s normal for someone who first comes into the Marines; they just don’t know what’s out there. I think the fear of the unknown is the worst for them, so my goal is to make them feel more comfortable with the possibilities.” He added that he also helps those set on leaving the service. Doubling up as his unit’s transition assistance coordinator, Martinez aids troops trading their life in uniform for one on the college campus and in civilian jobs. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword. I assist them in getting out, but I also assist them in staying in. The more information I’m able to provide them, the better decision they’ll make.” Being this helpful sort of person is nothing new to Martinez, however. After graduating Eagle Pass High School in 1988, he claimed he “picked up right where his father left off,” working as a farm labor contractor. Martinez would advise regional farmers as to the number of field hands they would need to harvest a particular crop. During his six years spent in between high school graduation and enlisting in the Corps, he also got married and worked jobs ranging from a McDonald’s cashier to a school bus driver. No matter how odd or basic the task, Martinez always used his station in life to positively influence those around him. “I’ve always been in a role where I can affect people,” he said. “But I also needed a job that would pay more money so I could support my wife. I felt like I was just spinning my wheels, not going anywhere. In order to push myself and assist my family, I decided to join the military.” Although he sought better income, Martinez kept his service-oriented mindset in his decision to enlist. “I’d told my recruiter that I needed to be in a job where I could talk to and assist people,” he said. “I came in as a unit diary clerk, basically a data entry processor in civilian terms, because I’m all about working with people. I’m all about service.” After attending recruit training in Nov. 1994 and his subsequent military occupational specialty school, Martinez and his family proceeded to his duty station aboard Okinawa, an island off the coast of mainland Japan. Later, he would report to the 10th Marine Regiment, a field artillery unit, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. Experiences there would set him on the path to someday becoming a career retention specialist. Martinez said that there he had re-enlisted in the Corps with the understanding that he would be reassigned to a duty station in Texas. However, his command argued that he had agreed to serve an additional year with them. After extensive debate, Martinez was reassigned to the United States Army Field Artillery Training Center aboard Fort Sill, Okla. He had left his previous leadership feeling cheated and taken advantage of. Aboard his new home, however, he would have the chance to rectify the wrong done him by ensuring his troops and students were taken care of. “Along with my administrative work, I had the additional task of serving as the unit career retention specialist,” Martinez stated. “It was intriguing for me to play a role in this whole process, and being able to provide the Marines with more years of service to the Corps.” While aboard Fort Sill, Marine officials designated career retention specialist as an official MOS. Eagerly, Martinez put in a request to become one, and did so officially in 2002. After two short tours of duty aboard Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., Martinez was afforded the chance to pursue another goal he had long held, that of deploying to a combat zone alongside his brothers-in-arms. He was reassigned to his present command in 2004, and they were busily preparing for their current mission in Iraq. “I’d been waiting my whole career to deploy,” he said. “I had slightly mixed feelings, even though I really wanted to go. Like everyone else, I really didn’t want to leave my family behind, but after being in the Corps for ten years with only 42 days in the field, I felt it was time to contribute a little more. That was a way to do it.” While his unit’s infantrymen provide security to Fallujah’s people, Martinez is helping secure their futures. “I like it out here; it’s perfect,” he stated. “I interview everyone, regardless of rank. We talk about their career, where they want to go, and what they want to do.” As for his own future goals, Martinez intends on serving his beloved Corps for a total of 20 years. He will spend as much of that time with his wife, Zuzeth, and three children, Zuzeth, Valeria, and Candelario III. “I’ve been able to raise a family well,” Martinez added. “This job allows me to cut out when I need to, or ‘burn the midnight oil’ when I have the time. If anyone wants to become that perfect dad, this is a great job for them. You can actually work, as well as be a part of your family. It’s all a matter of managing your time well.” During his remaining years of service, Martinez will continue helping others as he best knows, via discussion and communication. “I’ve been trying for a long time to do recruiting, because I’ll still be helping people, only now, I’ll be reaching out to those right out of high school. I can get them off the streets, and when they come back to society, they’ll be better off.” Despite however many Marines he assists, Martinez’s crusade to serve others is never-ending. “Even though I know some aspects of my job and the Marine Corps, it’ll never be enough. There are things I need to work on, and that’s a driving force for me. That’s what we all shoot for, to constantly become better.”