Trina L. Martin is an author, inspirational speaker, and personal development coach who inspires emerging leaders to pursue their wildest dreams with heart and grit. An accomplished and dedicated member of the U.S. military for nearly 30 years, she has broken barriers and made strides in her career that many said weren’t possible. She has had a stellar 20-year career in the Information Technology field.
Trina is the host of the weekly unscripted inspirational podcast Trina Talk, where she speaks to leaders, business owners, authors, coaches and everyday people from around the world on their successes and failures to motivate and inspire listeners to strive for the next level in their lives. You can learn more about Trina on her website.
Amanda: Let’s get started with why did you decide to join the military?
Trina: Well, the story begins. I was the first in my family to go to college and I went to college. It was self-financed, and after my freshman year in college, I realized that I needed help paying my way through college. So I decided to join the military, which I knew had GI bill benefits, things of that nature. I originally enlisted in the Army and then I later transferred over to the Navy, but basically getting my education paid for was one of the primary reasons why I joined the military.
Amanda: That makes a lot of sense. You did your freshman year of college, realized you couldn’t pay for it, and then is that when you decided to join the Army?
Trina: Yes, because at college, I saw a lot of my fellow students who were in ROTC or doing other things, and a lot of them said, well, this is what we’re doing and this is our way for paying for college.
So I decided that’s What I’m going to do. So it was a means for me to get my education.
Amanda: What was your career field when you were in the Army?
Trina: I was MOS 54B. And for those who don’t know, that is a Chemical Specialist. And back then I joined the army in 1990 so it was NBC. Now they call it C-BRNE, but I signed up for that. Of course, the recruiters, they make everything sound wonderful and great. So, I was a naive 19-year-old who listened to the recruiter and said, Oh yeah, this is a great feel. You’ll get a bonus. And of course, he said, bonus. And here I am, a starving college student. So that was all I needed to hear.
But little did I know that chemical specialist was not going to be me working in a lab. So I thought, okay.
Amanda: What did you do?
Trina: Oh, well with Chemicals, I was out in the field all the time. I’m learning about different nerve agents and gases and how to decontaminate things and performing recons though it was definitely not something that I thought it was going to be because I asked my recruiter, I said, well, chemical specialist, you know, is that like a chemist? Will I be in a lab? He said, Oh yeah, yes. Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Yes. And it was not. And in 1990 Desert Storm was going on. So shortly after I finished all my training, I get informed that I was on the list to go to Desert Storm, to serve in Desert Storm.
And in the end, as I’m getting ready to go, they say, Oh, we don’t need you anymore. And that’s when I said, ah, this profession was not what I expected, not for me. So I decided to go to the Navy.
Transition From Army to Navy
Amanda: Okay, so how quickly did you cross over from the Army to the Navy?
Trina: It took me three years. So I served three years in the army and then I transferred over to the Navy, which was pretty seamless because I had done all the training in the army. It was pretty seamless to come on over to the Navy, so I didn’t have to repeat basic training or anything like that.
Amanda: That’s kinda interesting. I didn’t know that you could make that switch?
Trina: Yes, yes. There are several people that I know have served in multiple services, but apparently, if you’ve served in the Marines or the army, going to like the Air Force or the Navy is usually an easier process because the physical requirements for the Marines and the Army are so much more strenuous than the Air Force or the Navy that you don’t have to repeat a basic training.
Amanda: If you were trying to go from like the Air Force to the Marines, it wouldn’t be the same thing.
Trina: It would be, right. It would be ground zero starting all over from scratch again.
Amanda: What did you do after your three years in the Army and you switched over to the Navy, what did you do then?
Trina: Well, I was enlisted at that time, so I believe I was an E-3 going to E-4 and I had several jobs. I was a radioman, which was the person who did the communications and sent out messages and things like that. They shortly turned that into IT specialists, which was good because of my degree that I was going to college for was computer science. So it kinda worked hand in hand with that. So I ended up doing that and I served 14 years enlisted before I got my commission and I became an intelligence officer in the Navy.
Amanda: How did you get your degree? Did you just do your degree in your spare hours or, I guess the internet wasn’t really a thing yet?
Trina: No. I actually went into reserve status to go back to college to finish my degree, and that’s what I did. And, yeah, it was actually a long, long journey because I finished my degree.
I’m still serving, ended up getting out, not getting out of the military, but graduating from school and just working, working, working, working. And like I said, I was enlisted for 14 years before actually getting my commission. But once I got into the Navy and I saw the different avenues that I was qualified for, I wanted to become an officer.
Amanda: That’s interesting. So when you switched from Army to Navy, was that when you made the transition to reserves or was it later on?
Trina: That was the transition point. Yes.
Amanda: What program did you do to switch from being enlisted to being an officer? in the Navy?
Trina: In the Navy, we have OCS. I did that, but that was after going back to school to get a master’s degree, because I tried several times to enter the program and become and get my commission, and I didn’t get accepted because they said, well, you need to be more competitive because we have people with advanced degrees, master’s degrees, PhDs.
We have doctors, we have lawyers. So you have to make yourself more competitive. And I never wanted to go back to get an advanced degree, but because I wanted to become an officer so badly, I went to graduate school to a private graduate school to get my MBA and then apply again for the commissioning program, and that’s when I was accepted.
Amanda: So it was really competitive to get into the officer training school for the Navy?
Trina: Oh, yes, absolutely.
Amanda: Were you able to use your GI bill when you switched to the reserves?
Trina: I did use that to finish up my education even though it doesn’t cover everything. It was a very big help in helping me to go through school and finish up, even though I had to work to supplement it. It was better than not having anything at all.
Amanda: Right, and that was the Montgomery GI Bill? The post 9/11 GI bill is different on what it covers.
Trina: Yes. So I was back in the Montgomery GI bill days.
Amanda: Did you have any GI bill left to spend on your master’s or did you have to pay out of pocket?
Trina: I think I had very little left, but I ended up actually being very fortunate. I was blessed because at the time I was working at a company, at a power company, and after my first year, they instituted a new policy and I said, well, regardless of what degree you’re getting, we’ll go ahead and pay for it.
Because when I started the program, they said, well, if this doesn’t directly align with your career or what you want to do with the company, this is going to be all on you. Which I was fine with because I had made up my mind that. I had a goal, which was to become an officer, but then I also wanted to have an MBA because I always wanted to go into business.
I found it to be very interesting, but I ended up becoming very fortunate because the company said, Hey, we’ll go ahead and pay for this because you’re bettering yourself, which ultimately will better you in your job.
Amanda: That’s awesome. That’s great.
So you got accepted and you went to your officer training school, and then did you go on active duty or did you go back into the reserves?
Trina: I went back into the reserves until 9/11 hit, and then I ended up getting deployed.
Deployed In Support Of Operation Enduring Freedom
Amanda: Okay. Let’s talk about what you did when you were deployed.
Trina: I can’t talk about much, but supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. I was actually gone for two years, and at the time I had a, not even a one-year-old and a two soon to be three-year-old.
So that was a pretty tough time. For me having such young children and having to leave the deployment originally was for a year, but when I got into the position because I was in a critical position, I was asked if I wanted to extend and I said yes, because I believed in the mission and what we were doing, and ultimately I knew that benefits and things of that nature would roll down to my children.
So I accepted the extension and I stayed for two years.
Amanda: And so your kids, when you came back were almost three and five, is that about right?
Trina: That is correct, yes. And so much happened during that time. When I came back to my children, of course, I was gone for two years of their life, but then my marriage ended and just so many different life changes happened.
You know, the marriage ended. My children were small. Like many people, whether male or female, when they come back from a deployment, they find that things are not taken care of at home. I had drained bank accounts. My husband/ex-husband had filed for bankruptcy and I didn’t know it. So there’s a lot that went on in.
One of the things that people don’t realize is, when you’re in the military, you sacrifice. Not only are you willing to give the ultimate sacrifice, but you’re also sacrificing on your home front and your life with your children and things of that nature. And I don’t think a lot of people realize that or understand that it’s not just the war zone where you’re putting your sacrifice in.
Amanda: That’s true. And just like the families don’t pay the ultimate sacrifice but if their loved one does die, or even if they’re deployed, that’s a sacrifice that the families have to deal with and workaround, and it’s a really hard, all the sacrifices that go with military life is really challenging.
Trina: Yes. Because I missed birthdays, I missed mother’s days, holidays. My son, who was the youngest at the time, he didn’t speak for two years. And I think that was because one of them was because I left. So there were different challenges and issues that I had to face coming back from a deployment.
Amanda: And so you were gone for two years, but were you able to communicate back home or what was the communication like?
Trina: No, I was able to communicate, and I actually did get leave, twice within two years, to go back home. So, my daughter, she ended up starting kindergarten while I was gone and I was actually able to come home and get her ready for that.
But the communication, like anything you’re trying to do, Skype, and at that time, Skype wasn’t the greatest and where I was, didn’t have the greatest forms of communication. So you’re doing the best you can. And that, again, that’s another sacrifice that military people make. And especially with being a military woman and mother, it’s harder because here I was like I said, I had a child who was barely a year old when I left, so I missed a lot of critical moments in my child’s life.
Amanda: Yeah. Was that something that was wearing on you during the deployment or were you focused on the mission and then when it was when you came home and had time to sit down?
Trina: You know, it was a little bit of everything because not only was it the fact that he was young, but my son, when I had him, had health issues, and that was another thing I have to bring up.
When I was deployed, one of those times, he ended up being hospitalized and it was very critical. So my ex-husband, who was my husband at the time, ended up calling the red cross, which ended up having me get sent home to be with him. And he was, you know, when I got home, he was in the hospital on oxygen. So it was very tough. It’s a tough thing. And, you know, I was torn between, okay, I’m a mother, my child is ill, but here I’ve made a commitment to serve my country. And like I said, people don’t realize the sacrifices that surface members make, but fortunately, thank God, everything turned out okay.
There were some very tough moments for me.
Transitioning Back Home
Amanda: Yeah, I believe it. You came back and it sounds like everything was falling apart. How did you transition back to normal life and get everything back the way it needed to be?
Trina: It took a while, after coming back ended up filing for divorce and then I ended up moving across the country to another state.
It was very difficult. Actually, I have to say, honestly, it took me probably a good three or four years after that time to actually kind of resume some sort of normalcy and it’s hard, you know, gone for two years. I came back, things were just in an array of a mess. And I filed for divorce and then I moved across the country with small children who were four and five years old at that time.
And it was just a lot. It was very hard. I was by myself, I was alone. I really didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to. And then I’m thinking about my children. How are they going to assimilate what they had known as normal was not normal anymore. So, it took some hard work and time and effort for us to get to a point of normal.
Amanda: Yeah, that sounds really hard and I’m not surprised that it took three to four years. I think people think, Oh, it takes like six months, but it takes a long time to process back to life, even if you don’t have a lot of things going on. I came home from my deployment and it took me years to get back to normal, you know?
I didn’t even have that much going on, but it just, it changes you. So did you have any struggles while serving in the military?
Trina: You’re saying just overall in general?
Amanda: Yeah. I mean, we’ve kind of talked about one, but was there anything else that you could pinpoint?
Trina: I’ve had different struggles at different times. I’ve served almost 30 years, so I’ve had, from dealing with bad leadership to dealing with bad fellow shipmates or fellow service members. And then there’s also the factor like we’ve already spoken about, is the family aspect of the people who you have at home.
When I have to travel or when I had to serve on this day, you know, I had displayed to my children, okay, yes, it’s your birthday, but I have to work. I can’t pinpoint this one circumstance that stands out, but I think I have gone through a little bit of everything.
Amanda: Yeah, it sounds like it. When you finished your deployment, you went back to the reserves, or were you on active duty?
Trina: After my terminal time ended, I went back to the reserves. And so while you’re in the reserves, you’re working a full-time job and one weekend a month. And two weeks a year.
Amanda: So how, how did you manage all that? Cause you were a single mom at that point, right?
Trina: Yes. And it’s, again, it’s very hard and people say the one weekend a month, two weeks, a year like that’s nothing. But Amanda, I serve a lot more time than that because being in. The Navy as an officer, they expect more from you. So I tell people that it’s actually my second full-time job, which is what it is, because I’m always on a plane traveling, flying, and they expect you as an officer to basically be available 24 hours.
So my one weekend a month comes and then I don’t know when the last time I’ve done two weeks a year, it’s always been two weeks plus and it’s hard. You hold down a full-time job. You have your military duty, you have your children, so I have to balance… where are the children going to be?
And even after I divorced my husband, what I did, because I moved to a different state, I was nice enough, I moved him to the state where we were because he was saying he wanted to be near the children. So that kind of put me at a little ease because instead of just turning your children over to someone that you don’t know anything about, you figured, okay, at least they’re with their father in that part you don’t have to worry about.
But then that became stressful as well as being a single mother because when you get a divorce, you know you have people who are angry and bitter and seeing that I was the person who filed for the divorce, my ex was very angry and bitter. So whenever I would say, hey, here’s my dates that I have to go, because once I got my commission, I always have to travel and fly for my weekends.
I was never homesteaded. I was flying to D.C. and Atlanta and all different places. That became an issue because then He was like, “Oh, okay, well, I’m doing you a favor or that doesn’t work for me”. So he tried to make it very difficult. On top of everything else, just in normal life that you’re dealing with, then you have to realize that, okay, I have to put up with this person who is trying to add an extra layer of difficulty in my life.
Amanda: Yeah, that sounds really hard. That’s, yeah. Wow. That’s crazy. It sounds like you went through a lot and I’m grateful that you served our nation and did all those sacrifices. You’re not in the reserves anymore, right? You’ve transferred out?
Trina: Actually, I am still hanging on, and it’s funny because like I said, it’s been almost 30 years, which I can’t believe because this was not my initial plan, but it’s like everything everybody says, whatever plan you have for your life, just, you know, forget it. Because it did turn out to be something totally different, and this has been one of those things, but I would not trade a day in the past 30 years for anything, because even though I went through some issues and these sacrifices that we’re discussing.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed being in the military and serving my country and meeting people who I’ve never would have met and serving with them. I’ve met and served with some great people and it’s almost been half of my life. So it’s almost like I’ve grown up in the military.
Service Member to Podcaster/Entrepreneur
Amanda: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. The people that you meet and the things that you get to do make the sacrifices not that they’re not there, but kind of like they’re worth it in a way, especially the people. So I want to talk a little bit about your podcast and your business. What made you decide to start a business and a podcast?
Trina: Well, as I said before, I always knew I had more in me. There was more to my life than just. The run of the mill. So I always wanted to start a business and I’ve tried a couple of things along the way that just were not it. And now I’m at the point where I’m building a training and development company because speaking, it started out with speaking.
Speaking is one of those things that gives me joy. So as I was speaking to people and motivating them, or people were coming to me, asking me for advice. I said, well, no, this is it. This is what I was meant to do. This is where I get my most fulfillment. This is where I serve others. So that’s why I started to put things in motion and make it a full-fledged business
And the podcast came out of that as a means to just spread my message because my podcast is about inspiration and motivation. And then I figured, well. If I can spread this out and serve other people, that’s what I want to do. Because I remember as I was going through those three or four her years after coming back from deployment and moving, I just needed to hear positivity.
I just need it. Something that would lift me up and maybe give me some kind of sense of direction, and I listened to podcasts. I love podcasts, but there was never, you know, you found the podcast on business, you found a podcast on this, but there was never anything that I felt was just all about motivation, and that’s what I wanted to be about
Something that I could look at and say, okay, even though I’m at this dark period of my life right now. This person was there and they did it, and I know I can do it too. So that’s why I started my podcast.
Amanda: That’s really cool. I think it’s cool when you can find a business that kind of lights the fire inside of you, and then you get to do something that you love, and that’s true.
That’s a really cool story. So that’s awesome that you found that. I only have one more question. I was going to ask you, what would you tell young women considering joining the military?
Trina: I would say do it. And I say that because not only have I met people, I have traveled the world. I have been everywhere.
But it also defined my character. I think if I hadn’t joined the military as that young naive 19 years old who the recruiters suckered, I don’t think I would be where I am today or be the person that I am today. Growing up, I came from an abusive mother, so my childhood was kind of traumatic.
I was very introverted. I was shy. I had low self-esteem. And the military shaped me. That brought me out. And I believe being in the military made me know my voice to speak and to do the things that I’m doing now with my business.
So, If you’re thinking about joining the military, by all means, do it. It’s a great opportunity whether you make it a career or whether you serve, a few years. I think it’s definitely a great decision. You will change as a person, but not only that, you’ll be able to travel the world and you’ll meet people who you normally wouldn’t have come across in your daily life.
Amanda: Yeah, that’s great advice. And I think that, as you said, some people do a few years and some people stay in and do 20 or even 30 years, but, it just changes you and opens your world, opens doors that you can’t even imagine that you even could open. And so I’d agree. The military is a great place to be.
Thank you so much for telling us a little bit about your time in the military and just thank you for all you’ve done for our country. I really appreciate getting to hear your story.
Trina: Thank you, Amanda, for having me, and thank you for your services country as well.
Amanda: Thank you.
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