At 23, Reba Martin may be the youngest NMCRS director, but she brings serious knowledge and experience to her new role leading NMCRS Iwakuni. Reba and her husband, now a Sergeant in the Marine Corps, recently celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary, and the fifth anniversary of her husband’s service.
Reba first learned about the Society in San Diego. “Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton was our first duty station,” she recalled. “I’d been there about a year and I’d struggled to get connected to the community and make friends. I was going to school, but doing a lot of my coursework online. Then, when I found out about the Society, and began doing meaningful work and being challenged, that helped me adjust. I was working with genuinely nice people. After a month or two, I told the volunteer support coordinator I had more time and wanted to help as much as I could. They had an opening for chair of volunteers (COV) shortly after that so she asked me to serve.”
Reba stayed at NMCRS Camp Pendleton for seven more months until her husband PCS’d to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. Because he was only a Lance Corporal, he wasn’t allowed to move his family overseas, so Reba moved home to the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area. “Even though I was away from my husband, I knew there was a Society office in Ft. Worth, so I went there to volunteer. It’s a very different office than the one in Camp Pendleton, but Director Sharon Zacharias was so welcoming and nice, it was like home.” Reba started at NMCRS Ft. Worth as a Customer Service Assistant (CSA), but was also training to do financial assistance casework. “NMCRS Ft. Worth sees a lot of clients from other Services so that’s a lot to learn,” she explained.
Ten months later, Reba’s husband was advanced to Corporal and she was able to move to Iwakuni to reunite with him. “I went to the NMCRS office right away. I told them I’d been a CSA and COV and I wanted to do casework. They had an opening for a COV so they asked me to take the position. I also did casework.” Immersing herself at NMCRS Iwakuni helped Reba quickly acclimate to life overseas. “The other volunteers and the director had been there for a while so they could guide me and give me tips and tricks.” Soon it was time for NMCRS Iwakuni’s director to PCS back to CONUS, and Reba was hired to be the director in June.
“During those first few weeks volunteering at NMCRS Camp Pendleton, I saw all the good the Society was doing and how wonderful it was to volunteer there. From that point on, I knew I eventually wanted to work for the Society. The opportunity I have now to be an employee and serve my community is such an honor. It’s the greatest opportunity I feel I could have at this point of my life.”
Throughout her military moves, Reba continued working toward a bachelor’s degree, transferring colleges four times before graduating from the University of Texas in Arlington (UTA). “Because of my Society experience, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, centered on urban nonprofit administration, through UTA. Every day, as I talk with our volunteers about the work we do, those discussions always relates to my classes. My degree is very relevant to what I do with the Society.”
Reba is excited about the opportunity to help NMCRS Iwakuni support the growing military population of the base, which is projected to expand by one-third over the next year. Her office recently moved to a location down the passageway from Marine Corps Family Team Building and the American Red Cross. This new location enables these support organizations to work together to make it easier for military families to get assistance.
Several volunteers support NMCRS Iwakuni as client services assistants and caseworkers. In addition, several dozen volunteers work from home sorting coupons and bring them to the office so military families can take advantage of discounts on food, formula, diapers and other necessities.
As Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni welcomes a larger Navy presence to the installation, NMCRS Iwakuni is finding ways to help Navy families smoothly integrate into the military community and overseas lifestyle. “Sailors often arrive with their families then deploy right away,” Reba explained. “It’s easy to get lost on a new base, so we try to get Navy families in here before their Sailor deploys so they know where we are and what we can do for them in case they need us.”
Welcome to NMCRS Iwakuni, Reba!
Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso