OKINAWA, JAPAN - Hospitalman Ellen Alvarez, currently serving aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), has traveled a long way to realize her dreams.
Alvarez was born and raised in the small town of Dangriga, Belize. She graduated from Ecumenical High School in 2009, where she studied business and was active in soccer, volleyball, track, dance and band.
“Belize is very tropical and the people are really nice,” said Alvarez. “Everything there is about family. I was around my family at all times.”
Seeking more in life, her family moved to New York City when she turned 18.
“My mom moved us from Belize because she wanted more for us,” said Alvarez. “She wanted us to have more opportunities.”
To help provide those opportunities to the family, she and her brother decided to join the military.
“I have a few cousins that are in the military and they told me that it was a great stepping stone that also teaches you character,” said Alvarez. “My brother and I decided to join the Navy together.”
Alvarez and her brother both joined on September 13, 2010. After completing boot camp in Great Lakes, Ill., they continued on with their respective rate-specific or “A” schools. Alvarez became a Corpsman and her brother became an Aviation Machinist’s Mate.
“Boot camp and ‘A’ school were challenging,” said Alvarez. “But we had amazing instructors. I learned a lot and I really appreciated my new professional skills.”
Alvarez received her first set of orders to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
“I chose orders to Maryland because it was close to my family in New York,” said Alvarez. “I absolutely loved it there. The facility and the people I worked with were amazing.”
Alvarez worked in oral surgery during her time in Bethesda. She became experienced with dental extractions, cosmetic surgery, jaw reconstructions and other dental procedures.
Her next set of orders brought her to the Germantown and with them came new responsibilities. She developed professionally, becoming a more well rounded Corpsman.
“I am grateful that I came to Germantown because it inspired me to become a dental hygienist,” said Alvarez. “I fell in love with the fulfillment of how clean people’s teeth are after I am through and how happy it makes them.”
When she returns to the U.S., Alvarez plans to attend school at the University of Maryland and take classes in dentistry.
“I have grown so much in the Navy,” said Alvarez. “The Navy has allowed me to experience so many things that I never imagined and I am so motivated for my future. I never thought that I wanted to be a dental hygienist; I always thought that I would pursue business, but the Navy has allowed me to find my true passion.”
Germantown is part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group, commanded by Capt. Heidi Agle, currently conducting joint forces exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility.