MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
“I watched my mother work in a factory, and she would come home with bleeding hands ... she worked really hard.”
Navy Lt. Judith Silva, officer in charge of Health Services Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, decided at a young age that she wanted to make something of herself.
“We couldn’t afford for me to go to college out of high school, so I enlisted in the Navy. That’s how my career started,” she said.
Silva, from Detroit, began her career in 1997 as a dental technician with the United States Navy, then worked her way up to become the medical planner for HSD, CLB-15.
“My job is to ensure that my doctors and corpsmen are trained and ready to deploy,” said Silva. “Our mission is to support [15th Marine Expeditionary Unit] by providing medical care through a shock trauma platoon.”
A shock trauma platoon is a mobile emergency room which provides immediate medical care to service members of the supporting unit, Silva explained. She said she’s excited for her first deployment with the 15th MEU early next year and is eager to learn new ways of getting the job done while working with Marines.
After working in Navy units for the majority of her career, Silva requested to be stationed with a Marine unit and reported to CLB-15 on Feb. 14. She believes it was a good sign.
“It’s definitely challenging. I feel like I just joined another service,” said Silva. “I like the way the Marines do business. In the Navy, you’re set in your job and you stay there. With the Marines, they pull personnel from different organic areas to make up their team with various skill sets and backgrounds. I love the ‘Semper Gumby’ mentality – always be flexible – the Marines have.”
To contribute to this jacks-of-all-trades team, Silva has shared all of her knowledge to her subordinates, as well as learning from them. Everything she has learned while working in the Navy, and new techniques she gained from her civilian counterparts as a board member of a local American College of Healthcare Executives chapter while stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, she has passed down to her sailors to improve the workflow.
“I absolutely love my job,” Silva said. “I love being a part of 1st MLG. It’s my first OIC billet and also my first time working with the Marines. I am very humbled and honored to be here.”
Silva looks at the Marine Corps poster on her wall each day for motivation. The poster is titled ‘Regrets,’ with photo of a Marine, who lost both his legs, saying, ‘No Mr. President, none that I can think of.’
“I love this poster,” Silva said. “It reminds me everyday what I come to work for. I can’t get too comfortable and complacent in my job because these warriors depend on us to medically care for them.”
In order to care for those warriors, training is important and there can never be enough, Silva said. She’s always looking for new and unique ways of training her subordinates, which means more lives saved on the battlefield.
“She’s all about training. That’s her number one goal – to make sure that everyone is trained up and prepared for any situation, whether it’s medical or combat,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Hachez, leading petty officer, HSD, CLB-15, CLR-17, 1st MLG.
In order to train successfully, Silva always plans ahead for the mission, such as getting to know the terrain they’ll be operating in, figuring out which equipment and medicine to bring, and conducting air-evacuation and casualty-loading training.
When they aren’t out in the field training, Silva spends most of her time getting to know her Marines and sailors, helping them with personal issues or figuring out ways to help them advance in their careers.
“She truly cares for her subordinates,” said Hachez, from Vista, Calif. “She mentored me, set me up for my future and put me up for Sailor of the Quarter.”
With Silva’s help, Hachez won the battalion’s Sailor of the Quarter board, and later moved on to win 1st MLG’s Sailor of the Quarter board.
But she wasn’t always in a leader’s position. In fact, Silva started at the bottom of the totem pole just like any of her subordinates, she said. Silva served in the Navy as an enlisted member for 10 years until earning her commission in 2007.
“If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Silva. “I would start from the bottom as enlisted and work my way up again. It’s the only way to truly know and understand what my subordinates are going through.”
Her enlisted background prepared her for her next role as she took charge of the Health Services Detachment within CLB-15.
“Being prior enlisted, it has helped me a lot with my job. It has really prepared me well for my role as an OIC,” said Silva. “My sailors trust and respect me more because I understand what they’re going through. The big secret to leadership for me is to remain humble and remember where I came from.”
Hachez agreed: “Being on both ends of the table, Lt. Silva understands what we’re going through as her subordinates. Sometimes it’s hard to have a leading officer who doesn’t truly understand what we do. She’s definitely earned the respect of all ranks in the unit.”
Not only is she trusted and respected by her sailors, but Silva is also a hero to her family.
Silva’s mother was proud knowing that her daughter doesn’t have to work in a factory like she did, and that Silva’s job results in heroes’ lives being saved every day on the battlefield.
Silva recalled her graduation day for basic training, where her mother proudly wore a T-shirt that says ‘My daughter is in the Navy.’
“I forgot about that T-shirt until I went back to Michigan upon her death four years ago,” she said. “My mother had left me my grandparents’ old trunk that they brought to America from Czechoslovakia. Inside that old trunk was that T-shirt my mother wore so many years ago at my graduation. I think she was proud of me.”