A graduate of USC Marshall’s Masters of Business for Veterans (MBV) flew to Guam on Wednesday, April 15, to deliver a donation of masks to the beleaguered aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which has been hit hard by an outbreak of Covid-19.
Lt. Col. Jengi Martinez MBV ’15 happened to be on orders that week at March Air Force Base in Riverside when she got a text from James Bogle, program director of the MBV program.
A pilot for United Airlines, Martinez is on active reserve with the 729 Airlift Squadron. Bogle asked her if there was a way to get a donation of 5,000 face masks, donated by a medical supply manufacturer.
“I love my Trojan Family. I was honored to be of service.”—Lt. Col. Jengi Martinez MBV '15
“It was pure serendipity all the way,” she said. “I happened to be there, and when I checked the squadron schedule, I saw that there was, in fact, a flight going out to Guam that week.”
The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has been in the news lately. It is the Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier now docked at Guam, whose captain, Brett E. Crozier, was fired for asking Navy leadership for help with an outbreak of the coronavirus onboard.
As of Monday, the Navy had tested 94 percent of the crew for the virus, with 678 positive and 3,904 negative results, according to news reports. Most of the crew — 4,069 sailors — has been moved ashore and are now spread out between hotels, houses and facilities at the naval base.
The mission is the result of some fast Trojan family action, said Bogle. “It was a lot of connections coming together in a short period of time to deliver these much-needed supplies to our sailors,” he said. “Knowing the people involved, I am not surprised it came together so cleanly.”
Robert Harmon, a surgical technologist and medical device manufacturing entrepreneur had a cache of 5,000 face masks to donate, sewn by a Southern California group called the Healthcare Masks Collaboration OC. He had heard from the head nurse on the TR that masks were in critically low supply. The question was how to get them to Guam quickly.
“I knew getting those sailors protective gear would have a huge psychological boost,” said Harmon, who himself is a veteran. “I clearly remember getting care packages from strangers during Desert Storm, it meant everything to know people cared and made the effort back home.”
He reached out to John Semcken, a member of the MBV Board of Counselors who was himself a Navy vet (and the advisor for the movie Top Gun), who quickly got in touch with Bogle. Did he by any chance know of anyone at March Air Force Base in Riverside?
“The fact that he thought to reach out to me was pure luck,” said Semcken. “I knew Jengi was an Air Force pilot but I could not find her contacts. Fortunately we had MBV in common. All I had to do was contact James.(Bogle).”
Bogle knew just who to call. Once Martinez saw there was a flight, she signed on to pilot the C-17 on its mission, along with other supplies and a crew.
“This is just another incredible Trojan Family connection,” said Bogle. “I’m not at all surprised that it was Jengi Martinez who took this on and made it happen.”
“I love my Trojan Family,” said Martinez. “I was honored to be of service.”