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Sgt. Jennifer Chitwood, an administration specialist with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), raises her right hand as she states her re-enlistment oath aboard an aircraft above Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 27. Chitwood decided to re-enlist with the intention of becoming a drill instructor. (Courtesy Photo)

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Meritorious promotion, re-enlistment in combat zone: One Marine does it all

18 Nov 2011 | Cpl. Katherine M. Solano

Sgt. Jennifer Chitwood, the manpower chief with Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), can be described with one word: stubborn. Since stepping on the yellow footprints at recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., she has not let anyone or anything deter her from her goals.

Mere hours from earning the title of United States Marine, Chitwood had to cease training due to a pelvic fracture. She admits she was devastated as she watched the new Marines she had trained with for the past 13 weeks, the standard amount of time in recruit training, complete their training and become Marines. Eleven months and an unshakable amount of determination later, the Cincinnati native graduated boot camp.

“I just wanted to get through training with everyone else,” she said, after describing the frustration of watching platoon after platoon become Marines. “I felt out of place because all of my fellow Marines graduated before me.”

Upon arrival at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., she set her sights on her next accomplishment. Chitwood wanted to deploy. She picked up speed and never looked back, absorbing everything she could about her military occupational specialty as an administration specialist. Her proficiency soared, allowing her to hold a staff noncommissioned officer billet as a lance corporal.

In August 2011, Chitwood met her next challenge head on. She deployed to Afghanistan to, in her words, ‘be with my Marines’.

After touching down aboard Camp Leatherneck, Chitwood set a loftier goal of becoming a meritorious sergeant. She started physical training not once, but two or three times a day. She continued to strive to learn more about her job. She mentored Marines regardless of unit.

“Being a noncommissioned officer, to me, is being able and willing to help junior Marines, and not just yours,” Chitwood said. “Being an NCO is about helping all fellow Marines.”

Perhaps most importantly, in her eyes, Chitwood arrived in country with the mentality that ‘if my Marines can do it, so can I.’

Chitwood went on to further explain that, “being an NCO is not just telling your Marines to do something, but being able to get out there and get your hands dirty and do the exact same thing you are asking your Marines to do.”

Hence the two-a-day PT sessions, and the willingness to stay late and come in early. Chitwood even volunteers to participate in additional duties such as morning colors.

Her hard work and dedication to the well-being of her Marines paid off. She was meritoriously promoted to sergeant Nov. 2.

Just two weeks prior, she had once again raised her right hand to devote four more years of her life to serving as a United States Marine. This time, she wasn’t standing in a room surrounded by other young adults, unsure of what the future would bring. This time, she was in the back of an aircraft, flying above a battlespace in Afghanistan.

Recently, Chitwood participated in a hike for charity with a group of servicemembers aboard the base. Due to her competitive nature, she admittedly pushed herself a little too hard, resulting in a minor injury to her pelvis. Unable to operate at the same fast-paced tempo she is so well known for, her frustration is evident.

“I want to hurry up and get back in the fight, so I can PT with my Marines, go running, get them where they need to be, and I cannot do that if I am not where I need to be,” Chitwood said with a slightly subdued, but matter-of-fact, tone.

But Chitwood knows she will be back to better-than-ever soon enough. It’s all she knows how to be.


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