This article is fifth in a series profiling Marines working aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany
Lt. Col. Latresa Steward, executive officer, Marine Force Storage Command, came into the Marine Corps as a mother with three years of college under her belt. An office clerk at the King County courthouse in Seattle, Steward had an eye toward joining the military in order to finish her college degree, provide a better life for her son and find a sense of purpose.
“I walked into the recruiting office to see what they had to offer,” Steward said. “I thought working a fulltime job, going to school at night and raising my son was already was difficult.”
After she completed boot camp, Steward, then a lance corporal, reported to her first duty station, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, where she worked as a maintenance administration clerk for a F18 squadron. It was at her first duty station where she said she went through a period of personal and professional growth that changed her life.
With the support of her officer in charge, she quickly signed up to continue her college courses and relied on the hospitality of her fellow Marines and their spouses to help her fulfill her role as a mother while going to school and working her way up the ranks. She remembers spending her lunchbreaks either picking up Women, Infants, and Children coupons, taking Marine Corps Community Service life skills classes, doing homework or visiting her son at the base daycare.
On the weekends, Steward and her son would spend time with Marines and their families of which many are still close family friends today.
“My 25 year son’s two best friends today are from families we met while stationed at Miramar,” she said.
After her divorce, Steward realized that joining the Marine Corps was truly a blessing. She said the Corps helped her realize that anything she set her mind to, she could achieve.
“I didn’t think I needed to sacrifice my goals to complete my degree, have a career and provide for my son because I was a single mother,” she said. “A gunnery sergeant showed me I could raise a child as I see fit, gain valuable life skills, and pursue a career.”
As a corporal, Steward completed her bachelor’s degree in business management and was encouraged by her command to apply for the Marine Corps commissioning program.
“My command was so supportive – I had Marines I barely knew helping put my package together and helping me prepare for the board,” she said.
Steward picked up the rank of sergeant two months before leaving for Officer Candidate School.
“I am here today because of the support I received from both my Marine Corps family and my parents,” she said.
Although officer training was tough, her parents kept her son while she completed OCS and her Marine family helped her take care of her son during the long hours at The Basic School.
“I may not have had a spouse, but I definitely had wonderful Marine spouses and senior staff noncommissioned officers who were always looking out for me and making sure I was not going to fail,” Steward stated. “To this day, I take every opportunity I can to pay that support I received forward. I would not have made it without the help of fellow Marines looking out for me and my children.”
Over the years, Steward has witnessed development take place not just within herself. She was able to meet influential leaders, gain connections and skills from people and organizations within the communities where she was stationed, and her children have been blessed with similar experiences and benefits.
Steward had her daughter while stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, at the time a first lieutenant. She said she was again was blessed with support from her fellow Marines.
“I can’t remember a day when Marines were not bringing food, gifts, toys or inviting my kids to participate in some function on the weekend with their family,” she said.
Steward’s daughter is now a junior in high school, and her son just completed his enlistment in the Marine Corps and works as an avionics tech for Lockheed Martin. She said coordination, and trying to be “respectfully nosy” with what is going on with her kids and her Marines, plays a big role in her life and career.
“I give 100 percent every day to both family and the Marine Corps,” she said. “It’s all about maintaining balance and staying true to yourself. When I need help with work or home, I have people I trust to ask for help. I know they have my back and that I have theirs.”
The opportunities to succeed are what led Steward to make the Marine Corps into a career.
“If you prove yourself, your opportunities are unlimited,” she said. “I had no idea what the officer program was (when I started),” Steward said. “When the Marine Corps sees potential in people, they seek you out and push you to come out of your comfort zone and reach your true potential.”
“There are smart, capable young adults in the Marine Corps,” she added. “They just need positive encouragement to take a step of faith, seek out every opportunity and not be afraid to ask for help or give it a shot.”
Steward’s current role is executive officer for Marine Force Storage Command and Headquarters Group, which are subordinate commands to Marine Corps Logistics Command at MCLB Albany. It involves supporting fellow Marines and their families, administrative oversight of command programs, legal and personnel issues and coordinating with the staff for day-to-day operations in support of the commanding officer.
“I just try to take care of Marines,” she said. “We do our best to take the administrative burden off the Marines so they can focus on their jobs.”
The administrative work typically includes a wide range of things. This includes a review of all administrative paperwork for the commanding officer to include re-enlistment, endorsements, awards, investigations, disciplinary issues and correspondence to external agencies regarding service members and their for family members, mentoring and referring a service member or family member to a variety of family services/resources.
What makes MCLB Albany unique, Steward said, is the high number of civilian personnel and the variety of level of knowledge and experience in the workforce. They include, but are not limited to, military retirees, civilians with decades of experience working for the Marine Corps.
“There is a lot of different workforce personnel that support the MARCORLOGCOM mission, and with that comes a different way of communicating in terms of rank and who you are dealing with,” Steward said. “When you show them respect they show you respect; they are willing to bend over backward to help you.”
“That mindset carries over in all aspects of life and it is one unique skill that you can’t truly appreciate until you work with an organization like MARCORLOGCOM,” she continued.
This is Steward’s second time being stationed with MARCORLOGCOM. During her first tour, she worked in the Supply Management Center and the Operations Center where she deployed as the OIC and operations officer for Marine Corps Logistics Command Forward Kuwait. It was while deployed that she witnessed first-hand how civilians Marines can accomplish the mission side-by-side with the Marines in uniform.
At the end of the day everyone has a role to play in accomplishing the MARCORLOGCOM mission and we all work for the same boss, the MARCORLOGCOM commanding general and commandant of the Marine Corps, the lieutenant colonel said.
Steward said the ability to influence people, help Marines excel personally and professionally, and having the opportunity to learn from them has kept her in the Corps.
“I am always, always learning from people,” she said. “Everywhere I go, there are opportunities to influence their lives, or they will influence mine.”
MARCORLOGCOM handles supply, maintenance, distribution and resourcing for the Marine Corps. Giving a full effort is important.
“Anything the Marine Corps needs in regards to equipment, maintenance and logistic support, MARCORLOGCOM touches it,” Steward said.
Steward also counsels young Marines to “keep your eye on the endgame.”
“Regardless of your personal feelings, finish your commitment. Finish what you start,” she said. “There is no reason to quit when it comes to family, the Marine Corps family and your nation’s safety. Remember that what you do matters.”
“The Marine Corps wouldn’t have established your job if it wasn’t needed,” she continued. “If you are thinking of quitting, think of what made you join.”
She added that self-identity is key.
“Know who you are in and out of the uniform,” she said. “Maintaining your self-identity is critical and never stop seeking self-improvement because we can only wear the uniform for so long.”
Steward is nearing the end of her career with her retirement set for September. Following her departure, she anticipates taking a position as a senior military instructor for a high school in the southwest Georgia area while her daughter finishes her senior year at Sherwood Christian Academy.
It will allow her to remain a part of the military community while giving back to something that has provided her with a strong foundation.
“The Marine Corps gives you a solid foundation,” Steward said. “I think that a solid foundation is what we need to focus on providing the kids in our community if we want them to succeed in this ever changing world. This is a good way to transition from the uniform but be able to give back to a community that has given so much support to me and my family.”