MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calf. -- Many Marines serve an entire enlistment without experiencing all the Marine Corps has to offer in the way of sports, travel and education.
That is not the case for 22-year-old Sgt. Katrina J. Marklevits, intelligence system administrator, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Red Wing, Minn., native has taken advantage of opportunities afforded to her by the Corps by trying out and joining the Marine Corps volleyball team, taking online college classes, staying in top physical shape and most recently earning her Marine Corps martial arts green belt.
Marklevits, the middle child of five, joined the Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program June 29, 1997, while still attending Red Wing High School. According to Marklevits, she really didn't know what she wanted to pursue after high school, so she decided to walk into the Marine Corps recruiter's office.
"College also wasn't an option because I didn't know what I wanted to do at the time," said Marklevits.
Marklevits arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., June 22, 1998, to begin her recruit training. According to the 5-foot-6-inch blonde, playing volleyball, hockey and softball during high school made boot camp more of a mental challenge than a physical one. She graduated boot camp with the highest physical fitness test score in her series.
After completing Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C., she received orders to the Naval Technical Training Center Corry Station, Pensacola, Fla., for her military occupation skills training as a special intelligence communicator.
In January 1999, she arrived at her first duty station at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There Marklevits was assigned to Company L, Marine Support Battalion, where she worked in the communications center.
After serving at Gitmo, Marklevits was reassigned to Naval and Marine Corps Training Center at Virginia Beach, Va. While working at the communications center there, she heard about the Marine Corps volleyball team. Her love for the sport sparked an interest in trying out for the team.
According to Marklevits, joining the Marine Corps volleyball team was a worthwhile experience. It allowed her to travel to tournaments in Hawaii her first year and Tennessee her second year.
"Being in the team was a lot of hard work," said Marklevits. "Practices were long and intense. Everyone in the team gave it their all during the practices."
A little over six months after reenlisting, she received orders to report to the 13th MEU.
"Being stationed with the MEU is a lot more different from all my other duty stations," said Marklevits. "I feel like what I'm doing here is a lot more essential to the mission."
According to Maj. Joseph D. Sinicrope, senior intelligence officer, 13th MEU, Marklevits plays a critical role in the mission of the intelligence section.
"She exhibits all the qualities expected in a Marine," said Sinicrope. "Observing her earning a 300 on the PFT, finishing the obstacle course faster than 70 percent of the other Marines and obtaining her green belt, I consider her to be a poster board Marine sergeant."
Joining any other branch of the military never even crossed her mind. She chose the Marine Corps because they are the best, according to Marklevits. When she broke the news to her family, she was greeted with mixed reactions.
"My dad was pretty excited about me wanting to join because he wanted to enlist in the Army, but couldn't," she said.
The reaction from her mother was different from her father, though, more cautious and concerned with her joining.
Marklevits said, "Her reaction was more like 'Are you sure you really want to do this?'"
But in the end, her family has been very supportive of her decision.
Marklevits is currently taking online classes through American Military University and is working to earn a bachelor's degree in environmental studies.
Although her future plans with the Marine Corps are uncertain, she attributes some of her lessons in life to the Corps and doesn't regret joining.
"Without joining, I would have never learned the things that I know now, such as being a leader," said Marklevits. "Joining the Marine Corps has also exposed me to the world around me. Before enlisting, I never really paid much attention to current events. Being a Marine made me realize that we have an important role in America with how we defend it."