EL CENTRO, Calif. (NNS) -- Today's U.S. Navy Sailors come from many diverse backgrounds, not just across our nation but even across the world. The same can be said for U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, team members. Several Blue Angels team members come from countries outside of the United States, including Columbia, Jamaica, Brazil and Africa.
The path one takes from foreign national to U.S. Navy Sailor is different for many Sailors. For Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Vania Reid, it started as a necessity that led her to the Navy and Marine Corps team where she serves today.
Reid, a 22-year-old Trelawny, Jamaica native is a team member of the Blue Angels Material Control department, also known as the Supply shop. As a second year team member, she is in charge of purchasing aircraft parts, team uniform items and office supplies for the Supply shop.
"Moving to the United States and joining the U.S. Navy has given me more opportunities than I could have ever asked for," said Reid.
Life was different in Jamaica, Reid explained. There are very few opportunities for the poor, schools are very expensive and a commute anywhere is a long trip, she added.
"Jamaica is a third-world country," said Reid. "Everyone is trying to get out from under, and it's a constant battle to try to fight your way to the top."
In 2004, Reid's mother left Jamaica to live with family in Waukegan, Ill. Reid, along with her two younger sisters, stayed in Jamaica with their stepfather for three years before moving to Waukegan to join their mother.
"Moving to the United States was a very dramatic change," said Reid. "I was a senior in high school when we left Jamaica, but I wasn't able to graduate when we arrived here and had to do an extra year of school."
Outside of school, Reid worked at McDonald's as a cashier. "I worked after school and on the weekends because my mother's job wasn't enough to pay the bills," Reid said.
The ability to go to college and have a secure job to help take care of her family led Reid to join the Navy in 2008, just a year after coming to the United States. Reid reported to Recruit Training Command (RTC), Great Lakes, Ill. on July 28, 2008.
"The hardest part about joining the Navy was leaving my family," said Reid. "I have overcome a lot of challenges in my life, but leaving them had to be the hardest thing I have done so far."
After she completed RTC, she attended Logistic Specialist "A" School at Naval Air Station Meridian, Miss., and graduated November 2008. She then relocated to New Orleans, as part of the Fleet Logistics Center Jacksonville, New Orleans Detachment, where she spent her days in a warehouse receiving, shipping, issuing and stowing material. While stationed here, Reid applied for and gained her U.S. citizenship.
"I felt accomplished," said Reid about getting her citizenship. "I was able to obtain a security clearance and have the ability to do more in my job field."
One day at work her mentor saw a message come out stating that the Blue Angels were taking applications. With her mentor's encouragement, Reid submitted an application and interviewed for the Blue Angels.
"After I interviewed," said Reid, "I did not think I would be chosen because I was such a young second class petty officer and because I am a Full Time Support reservist. When the results came out, I was so excited to find out I had made the team."
After joining the Blue Angels in 2011, Reid said she was most excited to be able to travel and learn about aviation.
"I'm also glad to have the chance to inspire not only my family and fellow peers but the youth of the nation, especially young ladies," she added.
Reid, who was originally selected for the Supply shop, was assigned to the Crew Chiefs' shop for her first year on the team to fill a vacant position. Each Crew Chief is assigned to a pilot and is responsible for the set-up of the cockpit, the pilot's survival equipment and overall appearance of the aircraft.
Blue Angels team members sometimes work in shops outside of their previous job experience. New members rigorously train to become proficient at their new duties.
"Prior to her arrival we were a bit nervous because she did not have prior aircraft experience," said Marine Corps Sgt. Kyle Storm, the #7 pilot's crew chief and a third-year member of the Blue Angels. "After she arrived, she shocked us all. She was so eager to learn and she absorbed all the information we gave her like a sponge."
While she was one of the quickest to become qualified in her new job out of the group of new personnel in her shop, she said working out of her realm of experience was challenging at first.
"I was a blank slate and had to learn everything from scratch," said Reid.
Working hands-on with the pilots and performing the ground demonstration were among her favorite parts about being a crew chief, she said, but she is happy to transfer back to the supply shop this year.
"I'm excited to learn the aviation side as a Logistics Specialist," said Reid.
When Reid is not ordering aircraft parts and flight suits she spends her time furthering her education and giving back to the community. She is currently enrolled with the University of Maryland and is working toward a bachelor's degree in business.
"I want to be a good example for my sisters, someone who they can look up to and who inspires them," she noted.
Reid enjoys giving back to her community by volunteering with Adopt-A-Highway, and at Gretna Juvenile Center in Gretna, La., along with various food and school supply collection programs.
"As a child I didn't have a lot," said Reid. "I always admired the people that volunteered to help my community out. Now that I am able, I give back, hoping to make a difference for others."
Reid, who has two years left to serve with the Blue Angels, says she hopes she is able to touch someone's life with her story.
"If I am able to inspire one person, whether it is a junior Sailor or a young child, to follow their dreams and for them to know that no matter what their background is they can be successful, I'll be happy knowing I made a difference."
The mission of the Blue Angels is to enhance Navy recruiting, and credibly represent Navy and Marine Corps aviation to the United States and its Armed Forces to America and other countries as international ambassadors of good will. The team is currently at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro, Calif., for winter training and will begin the 2013 show season March 16 at the NAF El Centro Air Show.
For more news from Navy Blue Angels, visit www.navy.mil/local/blueangels/.