MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – In fifth grade, Connie Hernandez received an artistic school assignment. Each student was required to draw their future selves in different milestone stages of their lives.
Hernandez got to work and knew exactly what she planned to do. Her drawings included sketches of her completing high school, graduating college, becoming a Marine, and eventually becoming a doctor and lawyer.
Thirteen years and a few plan adjustments later, Hernandez is close to reaching her dream. The Los Angeles native is now a field wireman assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit here and a corporal in charge of Marines.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the military since I was a little girl,” Hernandez said.
She comes from a military background. Her father was a tank mechanic in the Marine Corps during the 1980s and was stationed here.
Working as a certified nursing assistant at a facility for Alzheimer’s disease patients, attending community college, and looking to advance her education, Hernandez decided to enlist in the Marine Corps.
“I saw the Marine stand at a [college] fair on campus,” she said. “I noticed the professionalism of the Marine at the stand, took a business card, and that evening decided that this is what I’ve been missing in my life.”
Hernandez said she was attracted to the Marine Corps’ professionalism, elite training and the opportunity to be a part of the best.
“My mom was worried and upset when I told her,” Hernandez said. “Eventually she warmed up to it and became supportive as time went on.”
Putting her education on hold and pursuing a different kind of opportunity, Hernandez enlisted as a field wireman.
“We’re charged with maintaining and managing telephony,” Hernandez said. “We also work with contractors to determine what communications carrier to use in our unit.”
Field wiremen do cabling and installation of phone lines that give Marines a communications edge on and off the battlefield. Her occupation allows the commander to command and control forces abroad.
“I enjoy it, and I enjoy being a Marine,” Hernandez said. “It really is different from anything else.”
In her time as a Marine, Hernandez has deployed with the 26th MEU, practiced skills beyond that of her own occupational specialty, and was promoted to the rank of corporal. The promotion is sought after by many Marines as it is the first of the Marine Corps’ noncommissioned officer ranks.
“Being an NCO taught me to be strict, have things in order, to be independently functioning, and to be dependable,” Hernandez said. “I am more outspoken, and I am more professional.”
She plans to use the professionalism she’s learned and carry it over into the civilian workforce where she plans to pursue a career as a registered nurse.
“I love to take care of people,” Hernandez said. “I’d like to go to southern California, hopefully.”
With family in that area, Hernandez would be close to home and able to pursue this goal.
Hernandez plans to stay close to her family and friends, but also to remember and appreciate those Marines who influenced her career and motivations.