PACIFIC OCEAN --
Relaxing in her bed and watching a movie, Lance Cpl. Vanessa B. Garcia enjoys some downtime aboard USS Makin Island.
The U.S. Marines and sailors of Garcia's unit are participating in the seagoing portion of Iron Fist 2011, a bilateral exercise with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force - an event in which the two countries are enhancing interoperability and strengthening amphibious capabilities.
Garcia, a radio operator with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, graduated class of 2008 from Mansfield Summit High School in Mansfield, Texas. She attended community college for a year but decided criminal justice was, at the time, not for her.
She decided to become a Marine.
Enlisting in the Marine Corps was part of her family: Her father was a Marine, and she would be the first woman in her family to follow in his footsteps.
She graduated from boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., in 2010, and later that year, she completed the radio operator course at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., where she was subsequently assigned to 9th Communications Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Hoping to deploy forward with Marines, she volunteered for her current assignment at the MEU.
"She's a young Marine who came to the MEU with limited experience, but she has enthusiastically submerged herself into professional development," said Gunnery Sgt. Michael A. Sisson, the unit's radio chief and Bountiful, Utah, native.
Since joining the Corps, Garcia has encountered many new experiences.
"I am away from home, but I'm enjoying my time with the MEU. The people are great and I'm learning to be better at my job," Garcia said.
She aggressively seeks out opportunities to improve herself physically and professionally, according to Sisson, who has observed Garcia for four months.
While performing her job in a tactical environment, she has been able to support the Japanese soldiers of the Western Army Infantry Regiment at Edson Range, Camp Pendleton, Calif., by standing watch aboard Makin Island and maintaining radio communication.
"She's an intelligent Marine," Sisson said. "I hope that she grabs the opportunity to progress her career in whatever aspect ... is most beneficial to her."
Garcia wants a bachelor's degree and is looking into signing up for more college classes before the unit's upcoming deployment. For now, she is taking life a day at a time and looking forward to what the MEU has to offer.