By Gordon Van VleetJanuary 28, 2019
Back in 1976, when the movie Rocky was premiering on the silver screen and Gerald Ford was president, a determined young woman began what would be a long and memorable career as an Army civilian employee, at a (at the time) lonely, but historic, Army outpost called Fort Huachuca.
One of Arizona's own and Bisbee native, Martha (Marta) Vega, is retiring after 42 years of service as an Army civilian employee for the Army's Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM). Vega, who is retiring from the NETCOM G1, as the Essential Personnel Services Branch HR Military Specialist, began her career with the Army through a worker trainee program in April, 1976.
"Both my mother and my step-father worked on Fort Huachuca. Eventually two of my sisters got jobs here and then I eventually joined in. I started as a GS-01," said Vega. "I learned how to type on a manual typewriter. No electric typewriter, they said it was better to learn on a manual, that way when we moved to the electric typewriter we'd be faster.
"I began working with the Communications Electronics Engineering Installation Agency, then moved to the U.S. Army Communications Command (a precursor to what would later become NETCOM) approximately 5 years later," said Vega. "At one point when CEEIA was changing I processed awards for both USACC and CEEIA. I've been here ever since."
Over the years the people and the technology would constantly change and as such, so would her duties in one aspect or another. When asked about working for the Army in the late 70s and the 80s, Vega said with a slight smile, "It's been so long ago, but they trained me in various duties, I worked in the mail room, handled civilian personnel actions and awards, military personnel actions and awards, and supply, and of course 'other duties as assigned', said Vega. Vega went on to say, except for a nine-month period when she worked for a special technical group providing clerical assistance, she has worked in the same building (Greely Hall) her whole career.
"Everything, of course, was very different," said Vega. "Smoking was allowed in the offices back then, holiday parties were held in the offices, and drinking was even allowed," she remembered.
"It was kind of crazy back in those days," said Vega. "So much changed, hard to pinpoint the most significant changes. Technology I guess is the biggest change.
"Went from telephones to E-mail, typewriters to key punch, to word processing centers, to personal computers. Technology is wonderful and still moving at light speed," said Vega.
Talking about how things have changed, Vega recalled that she has seen this command change its name 5 times.
Since starting at NETCOM Vega has worked for 17 different commanding generals. "I liked all of the generals I worked for and with; but I have to say my favorite was Maj. Gen. [Carroll] Pollett. (Pollett retired as a lieutenant general after his time as the commanding general for Defense Information Systems Agency in 2012). He was a work horse, would send emails at 3 or 4 a.m., call from a cab or call me at home. But I learned a lot and he made you feel like you really mattered as a person and employee."
"Outstanding professional," said Lt. Gen. (retired) Pollett when asked about working with Vega. "Mrs. Vega is dedicated to the mission and the well-being of people and family. Her expertise and ability to accomplish any task or meet any challenge was always without question. As the Commanding General of NETCOM, she had my absolute trust, respect and confidence."
Speaking about working with Vega, another former commanding general, Maj. Gen. John Morrison (currently the Commanding General for the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon) said "Martha is a class act who leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets. Thoroughly enjoyed working with her and learned a ton!"
Aside from the numerous commanding generals, the people she worked with and for were another reason her time here was so memorable said Vega. "I grew up in this building so there are lots of memorable memories, mostly the people that have crossed my path, the friends I've made, the kindness shown to me over the years, having great bosses. I was really blessed.
"I'm a cancer survivor," said Vega. "I was diagnosed with 4th stage Hodgkin's in late 1980. They had been treating me for rheumatoid arthritis for a year prior to that, by the time I went to hospital I was gravely ill. But I will never in my life ever forget the caring and kindness shown to me by my family and most importantly, my working family, my superiors, my co-workers and other folks in the building I'd come to know. It was truly heartwarming. I survived because of them and their prayers and help."
Vega spoke mostly about the people she worked with and helped during her time at NETCOM. When asked what memories she will take with her when she leaves, she said simply, "Always the Soldiers, the people I worked with, the relationships I established in this command and others. I did win the Civilian of the Month for Fort Huachuca while working for NETCOM. That was memorable, but it is the people that really mattered."
When pressed for accomplishments during her long career, Vega would often speak about others. But, what was spoken during her awards ceremony Jan. 28 was that it was through her skill, leadership, and tireless work ethic that she was able to strengthen the relationships among commands and key agencies, including ARCYBER, Fort Huachuca, Department of the Army Office of Legislative Affairs, and the White House Inquiries Liaison office. Vega's citation read that she was able to increase communication and raise the effectiveness of Awards, Evaluations, and Congressional/White House Inquiries processing to levels never reached before worldwide.
Col. Tim Norton, the NETCOM Chief of Staff, who officiated during Vega's retirement ceremony, had three final tasks for Vega to pursue. Spend time with family; take care of yourself; and tell your story, said Norton. And Vega's story is an interesting one.
Vega is a native of Bisbee, Ariz., and has many memories from growing up in the once bustling mining town. "It was really wonderful," said Vega when asked what it was like growing up in Bisbee.
"You have to remember that Bisbee was not what it is today. I grew up in a working mining community surrounded by lots of family. My grandfather was a miner, so was my father, brother, and numerous uncles and cousins," said Vega.
Although a majority of her family moved away when the mines closed down, Vega said she still has many memories. "I learned to swim in the mountain dams near my home, hiked the mountains to visit family (shorter than walking down the street), hunted with my dad, went on picnics and camping with the whole family, ate snow ice cream, and learned how to ride a bike from a hill top, bought tortillas from the tortilla factory, went to watch movies at the Lyric Theater (which still stands today), went to the Drive In on Naco highway, shopped at the 5 and dime, had chocolate soda at the drugstore fountain, and watched the 4th of July parade, back then it was pretty big.
"Things were very different back then, you could sleep with your doors and windows wide open without fear. Everyone looked out for one another, helped one another….after all I was related to half the town," Vega added with a smile. "Couldn't get away with much back then. Bisbee is very different now but I still love going 'home' and I like all the shops and such. I do wish it was the same, but it had to change to stay viable. Change has to happen."
When asked what helped her preserver during her long career here, Vega said, "Plain and simple I loved what I did, I loved the people I worked with and for."
When asked if she had any advice for others who are just starting their career, the first thing she said was, "Pursue a higher education," as she thought back to her early days working. "I had a GED…that was it. The worker trainee program was perfect for folks like me at the time -- single mother, two kids. I later took some college courses but never pursued obtaining a degree. Dumb on my part looking back," she added.
But the advice Vega has for many is simple. "Give it your very best every day, don't be afraid to think outside the box, don't be afraid to do more than what is asked or required, establish good work ethics, be honest, be hard working, and always maintain your integrity."
And, when asked, 'What now?' Vega said, "Whatever I want to do, after I do what I have to do around my house of course," she said with a chuckle. "Seriously, spend more time with my husband, and make more time for visiting with family and friends, get healthier, stay motivated, and stay active." Then she added, "I may go back to school but I'll be looking at courses such as woodworking and such."
Vega's awards and farewell ceremony was a time of reflection, but also a time of celebration of a long and very eventful career. "Although I have only been here a short time, I have heard nothing but praise for Marta's work," said Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett, NETCOM Commanding General. "Although she is leaving us, the work habits, ethics and integrity she brought daily while she was here continues through those with whom she interacted. From the entire global command we say thank you and Godspeed."