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By Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson, NJDMAVA/PA; photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kryn Westhoven, 444MPAD
TAG at Operation Jump Start
Col. Jorge Martínez (right) receives the 50th Infantry Brigade colors from Brig. Gen. Paul C. Genereux Jr. (center), Commander, 42nd Infantry Division while Col. Frank S. Caruso Jr. (left) watches.

When 15-year-old Jorge Martínez boarded a “Freedom Flight” which took him from Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba to the United States via Spain in 1968, he did not know where he would eventually end up. All he did know was that given a choice “to stay in hell or to leave,” that he would take the latter, even if it meant never seeing his family again.

Four decades later Colonel Jorge Martínez has ended up commanding the largest unit in the New Jersey National Guard, a position he has been training for all his life. “Who would have thunk it,” observed Martinez, paraphrasing baseball great Yogi Berra, as he took the reigns of the 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Col.

Frank Caruso in Lawrenceville on March 18. That remark not only referred to his life’s journey, but the fact that an aviator was taking command of an infantry brigade. “I will use everything I have learned during my career to train you and to transform you into a capable, competent and cohesive force prepared to help defend the American people, our state and our nation,” he continued.

His career with the New Jersey Army National Guard spans 32 years and has taken him from his job as an enlisted mechanic with the Air Cavalry through Officer Candidate School, on to flight school where he learned his craft as a rotary wing pilot. Following flight school, Martinez returned to the 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry, performing duties as Aero-Recon platoon leader, executive officer and commander, from 1986 to 1989. From there it was on to numerous positions within different commands, where he served at various times as executive officer, commander and liaison officer.

Subsequent assignments allowed him to serve at state, brigade and battalion/squadron levels, leading him to remark, “Where else do you get the chance to be trained, to influence others positively and have the privilege to defend your country?” Recent years of his duty were exemplified by such diverse assignments as commander of the 119th Corps Support Battalion, and Aviation Branch Chief and Deputy Chief of Staff for Aviation and Safety (G3 Air) for the Joint Forces Headquarters, New Jersey National Guard. Along the way he managed to keep the flight suit associated with aviators, as he piloted various aircraft, including the OH-6 Cayuse (Little Bird), the UH-1 Iroquois (Huey), the UH- 60 Blackhawk and the fixed wing, U-21 Beachcraft.

Martínez avers that his success is a combination of the environment of mentorship from the many sergeants, warrant officers and officers to whom he was exposed, and his proactive stance towards all tasks that may come his way, a thought he reiterated with the Soldiers of his new command.

“As an Air Cavalry Troop Commander, I learned to ‘Show Them The Way’ and as a Corps Support Battalion Commander ‘I Found The Way.’ Now, as your new commander, I will ‘Pave the Way’ for the Jersey-born and Jersey-based 50th Infantry Brigade to become Jersey’s best.” Upon reflection, Martínez does not single out any one particular assignment over another. All of his experiences have helped him to get where he is now.

“The assignment is not for the person, it is for the person to give back to the organization,” he explains. Throughout his career, Martinez has always been mindful from where he has come, and where he is going and he plans on taking the 50th BCT along with him. “We face many challenges, but we will succeed, as long as we stay focused, stay true to ourselves, follow the Army Values, live by the Warrior’s Ethos and work with a sense of purpose and urgency.”

Considering what his prospects were as he walked the streets of Camagüey, Cuba in 1968, it is safe to say that young Jorge never could have imagined the journey he would soon embark upon, the values he would pick up along the way and where he would be standing 40 years later. Who would have thunk it, indeed.

Table of Contents
Volume 33 Number 1 Staff / Information
(c) 2006 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs