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.”
Howell 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 kill someone.
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.
“This 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.”
Howell's immediate 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 Marines.”
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 approachable.”
“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 officer.
“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 a year.
By U.S. Marine Corps GSgt. Katesha Washington
Provided through DVIDS
Comment on this article