MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. –
Lance Cpl. Danielle Howell was just 10 years old when she first
noticed the signs. Before she knew what to call it, she knew her
father, a retired Navy Seal, was suffering with a serious medical
condition she now knows as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Howell's father never received medical treatment for his PTSD but
she knew that he, like so many other combat veterans, should have
received medical help as soon as the signs became apparent. From her
personal family experience, she developed a passion for wanting to
help those in need.
There was no doubt in her mind that she
wanted to help combat-wounded veterans. Upon graduating from high
school in 2007, she applied to Westchester University of
Pennsylvania and earned a bachelor's degree in Social Work. She
didn't stop there- on May 9, 2014, she earned a master's degree in
social work from the University of South Carolina.
Lance Cpl. Danielle E. Howell, an aviation maintenance data specialist with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773, stands next to an AH-1 Cobra helicopter during Integrated Training Exercise 4-14, June 14, 2014. ITX 4-14 employs assets from ground, air and logistics combat elements to demonstrate the ability to deploy rapidly and build up significant combat power necessary to form a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Howell recently earned her master's degree in social work in her pursuit to help heal mentally wounded veterans returning from war. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by GSgt. Katesha Washington)
She eventually completed several social work internships
with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department
of Defense. Even after achieving her goal of graduating from
college and working in her chosen field, the native of
Hatfield, Pennsylvania, still felt something was missing
from her life.
“I knew I wanted to do something more
than finish college and go into social work, so my dad
convinced me to go talk to a Navy recruiter,” she said. “I
just didn't feel it was the right fit for me so I went to
the Marines' office and immediately I knew I was supposed to
be a Marine. It just felt like I fit in.”
graduated from recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit
Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, in August, 2011, and
felt she made the right decision when she wore her uniform
with the eagle, globe and anchor on it for the first time.
“I joined to have the experience as a Marine. What
better way to help my clients than to be able to relate to
them?” she added.
Currently, she works as a Reserve
aviation maintenance data specialist with Marine Light
Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 (HMLA 773). Some of her
duties include tracking and reporting maintenance records
for Cobra helicopter engines and every piece of equipment
attached to them. Accuracy, she said, is crucial. If records
are not accurate and pilots fly with overused or
under-maintained parts, the helicopter could potentially
As she and the squadron participate in
Integrated Training Exercise 4-14 here, Howell realizes how
much she needs to learn and also to be appreciative for all
of the information she has acquired so far.
exercise has taught me more about my job and has given me
much more confidence in my abilities,” she explained. “It's
important that I learn as much as possible about my job, not
only for the safety of the pilots, but also because I want
people to come to me when they have questions or if a
problem needs to be fixed.”
supervisor, Sgt. Vincent Castillo, encourages her to take on
more responsibility to prepare her for more advanced
leadership roles as a future noncommissioned officer and
eventually, possibly as a commissioned officer. He said she
is one of the most articulate, motivated, and determined
Marines he has led throughout his eight-year career.
“She has good common sense and can process information
quickly, which is why I specifically assigned her as the
NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge) to teach other
Howell doesn't mind the compliments. She
attributes her leadership abilities to Staff Sgt. Santen,
her first staff noncommissioned officer in charge.
“My staff sergeant was tough, well-respected, trustworthy
and always willing and ready to help regardless of the
situation,” she explained. “He may have had high
expectations and ran a tight ship but he was still
“If he ran into a fire I would follow
and go in with him,” she said. Even with all that she has
accomplished in her 25 years, Howell has several short and
long term goals on her roadmap.
She signed up and is
training to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2014.
She is also considering applying for the Ground Combat
Element Integrated Task Force - a test program designed to
assimilate female Marines into ground combat units such as
infantry and artillery.
Howell's brother, John, is a
Marine second lieutenant and is currently attending The
Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. She said he constantly
pushes her to submit her package to become a commissioned
“Every time I talk to him he is asking,
‘Where's your package?' ‘Have you submitted your officer
package yet?'” she notes. “It is definitely something I am
researching and may possibly do.”
Until she makes her
decision to pursue a career as a Marine officer, Howell
plans to keep learning every intricate detail about her job.
She is just one of the many Reserve Marines at ITX with more
to offer than just their time one weekend a month, two weeks
By U.S. Marine Corps GSgt. Katesha Washington
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