No place like home for PBL High grad in Navy

PAXTON — After living and working aboard a U.S. Navy ship for more than a year, Josiah Martin returned home — although only briefly — for what he termed a “belated” Christmas break.

The 2016 graduate of Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School used the vacation to visit his parents, Angela and Joel Martin, and his younger sister, Gracie, at their Lake Iroquois home, hang out and play video games with his older brother, Reese, at his home in Monticello, and visit his older sister, Brooke, and her children. Martin also stopped by his former workplace — The Humble Hog barbecue restaurant in downtown Paxton — to get a bite to eat and reminisce.

“It’s awesome,” the 21-year-old Martin said before departing the area and heading back to his ship, the USS Lake Champlain, in San Diego, Calif. “It’s kind of crazy because I haven’t seen my family in so long. It’s been great, though.”

Martin had not been back home since he had a 10-day break following his graduation from “A-school” in October 2017. Besides missing his family, he missed the peacefulness of the rural area where he grew up.

“I’m not going to lie,” said Martin, who grew up in Fisher before his family moved to the Paxton area while he was in elementary school. “I’d never thought I’d miss this place, and then I got back here and was like, ‘Gosh, I miss this — it’s so quiet here; it’s so peaceful; and San Diego’s so loud.’ There’s not a place you can be (in San Diego) where you won’t hear the interstate. So it’s kind of nice being here and just being able to not do anything and just hear silence for once.

“But I’m kind of upset we haven’t had that much snow. That was one of the things I was looking forward to, because it doesn’t snow in San Diego.”

Of course, it definitely did snow — and quite a bit — but that was only after Martin had left for California on Jan. 9 after his two-week stay.

With the exception of his recent vacation, Martin has spent most of his time in the past year-plus aboard the USS Lake Champlain, a 567-foot-long, 55-foot-wide guided-missile cruiser. Since graduating from boot camp in September 2017 and “A-School” that October, Martin, an undesignated seaman, has been training to achieve the occupational rating of boatswain’s mate while he works aboard the “small boy” ship along with hundreds of other enlisted military personnel — sometimes as many as 400 when the ship is out at sea.

Martin is expected to continue to be there for quite some time, too.

“I’m contracted right now to be there until 2022,” Martin said.

While Martin seems certain he wants to become a boatswain’s mate when his two-year anniversary of graduating from A-School arrives this October, he said the military may want him to do something else — something that perhaps better utilizes his brain. Martin said he scored “really good” on his entrance exam for the Navy, and his superiors realize he could be qualified for another role. However, Martin said he loves his current job as a boatswain’s mate-in-training, and he thinks he has found what he wants to do.

“I enjoy my job right now and enjoy the people I work with, and I already have a year and two months of experience working in that (occupation), so I know not everything that there is to know about being a boatswain’s mate but I know a lot,” Martin said. “We have boatswain’s mates on my ship who I know more than (about the job).”

Martin was originally planning to become a cybersecurity specialist for the Navy, with the idea that he could use those skills to eventually work in the private sector alongside his older brother, who already owns a technology company called Unisyn Technologies. Martin was actually majoring in cybersecurity at Illinois State University before the need to find a way to pay for his schooling became a priority and he chose to enter the military as a result.

The Navy, however, indicated to Martin that it was already “overmanned” with cybersecurity personnel, “so it’s kind of cut off from me.”

“So I was like, ‘OK, I’ll stay a boatswain’s mate,’” Martin recalled.

Boatswain’s mates are the backbone of any Navy ship’s crew, Martin said.

“When we’re in port and when we’re out at sea, it’s two totally different jobs,” Martin said. “While we’re in port, we’re pretty much preserving the ship. Since our ship is sitting in salt water all the time and is exposed to air, a lot of rust occurs, so we’ll take up paint on the decks and walls and repaint it when it gets rusty. Preservation of the ship is pretty much our main focus when we’re in port, as well as getting qualifications and certifications that we would need when we get (sent out to sea).

“When (at sea), we run a lot of important operations. For instance, on our big ship we have little, 11-meter boats, and we’re in charge of manning those boats and dropping them (into the water) and retrieving them. So if the captain ever needs to go somewhere or somebody needs to be taken to another ship real quick or even to shore, we do that. Or if a man goes overboard, we’ve got to run up there and get the boat in the water as fast as possible so we can recover them.”

Boatswain’s mates are also “mostly in charge” of the flight-deck operations, Martin said.

“We’re giving the signals to the (helicopters) coming in and landing,” Martin said.

Boatswain’s mates are also in charge of replenishing the ship’s supplies — such as food, fuel and toiletries — when the ship is out at sea for an extended period of time, Martin said.

They are also responsible for mooring and unmooring the ship to and from the peer, Martin said.

“So when we’re leaving (the peer), we’re the ones who take all the lines off so the ship can get (out to sea), and, likewise, when we come into port we’re the ones in charge of getting all the lines onto the peer and hooking them up and securing them so that our ship just doesn’t float away,” Martin said.

Besides his actual duties, Martin enjoys his time in the Navy because he gets to see the world.

“That is probably the best part,” Martin said. “A lot of people sit there and gripe and complain about being on deployment. Looking back, yeah, it’s hard at the time ... but I honestly wouldn’t mind being on another deployment because when looking back at it, I’m like, ‘I’ve been to Guam, Vietnam, Peru, Guatemala, Mexico.’ And I’ve been to Hawaii four times — how many people can say that?”

When not aboard his ship, Martin spends his free time going to the movies and escape rooms with his friends — and playing beach volleyball, “a new hobby I’ve obtained,” he said.

About the only aspect of being in the Navy that Martin does not particularly like is being away from home.

After all, there is no place like home — as his recent visit proved to him.

“That’s probably the only hard thing about it, other than the strenuous work hours,” Martin said. “I did the math one time, and I make like $6 an hour.”

Martin is not sure if he intends to pursue a career in the military or instead use the GI Bill to fund his education in cybersecurity. He is leaning toward the latter, though.

“I haven’t decided yet,” Martin said, “because I still have 3 1/2 years until that decision time pops up. So I’m not really burning any bridges or making any final decisions, but as of right now I don’t want to stay in (past 2022) because I want to go to school afterwards and actually obtain my cybersecurity degree. I’m going to try to knock out as much school as I can while I’m in (the Navy) by taking online classes and stuff like that. So maybe I could get a good majority of my bachelor’s (degree coursework) knocked out (before leaving the Navy). That way, I can use the GI Bill for my master’s (degree). That’s the plan right now. But like I said, it’s so far off that I don’t know that will happen.

“Maybe I’ll stay in. Maybe I won’t.”

Categories (4):News, Education, Living, People
Location (3):Local, Paxton, Ford County

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