BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – For Staff Sgt. Marcee Lettinga, a services technician with the 110th Force Support Squadron, Battle Creek Air National Guard Base, seven years of service in the Michigan ANG have been defined by one word: family.
"How I ended up here is kind of a crazy story," she explains, shortly after administering a physical fitness test for members of her unit. "I wanted the military lifestyle because I have always been an athlete and I like the team aspect of working together. I just didn't know which branch I would join or when it would happen."
As a junior in college, Lettinga met with recruiters from multiple branches of the armed forces as she was contemplating her decision.
"I was getting different information, and it was mostly focused on the money and benefits," she says. "That wasn't doing it for me – anybody who knows me has heard me say, 'You can always make money, but you can never make back time or experiences, or opportunities.'"
Then, Lettinga connected with a recruiter with the Michigan ANG.
There was a spark.
"All she said was, 'Tell me about you,' recalls Lettinga. "That was it for me because no other branch had done that. I was looking for family and for opportunity, so the fact that my recruiter already wanted to get to know me on a personal level offered that family vibe from the beginning. I was sold."
When Lettinga enlisted in early 2013, it marked a rebirth of sorts after an early adulthood largely defined by personal struggles. She recalls how the structure of basic military training, combined with the close-knit community of her unit in Battle Creek, gave her life skills and a support network she had never had.
"As long as you work hard, people will want you around – so that's kind of what I did," Lettinga says. "I just want to be that 'go-to' gal who says yes to everything. It's opened up a lot of opportunities for me."
Lettinga has indeed made the most of her time in the Michigan ANG: in just seven years, she has served in a variety of roles including base services specialist, base training assistant and physical fitness monitor. Her duties include a special assignment as recruiting office administrator.
"I said if there's a deployment, I want to go – so I ended up going to the Middle East from the summer of 2016 to 2017," says Lettinga. "After I got a taste for that, it was game over."
Lettinga has since served in Puerto Rico and Virginia on two innovative readiness training missions, which combine military training with care for populations in underserved areas.
"People like to ask, 'What are your plans in five years, or even 10 years,' " Lettinga says. "I still sometimes don't feel like I have a plan for what I'm doing in five days. That can be a great thing, though, because the military is like a tree – you start at the base and you can work your way up, but you can also branch out; you can take all these different paths."
Lettinga will insist her motivation comes from an inner drive toward service, kind-heartedness, and loyalty, but external accolades have come her way as well. Recently, she was recognized as an outstanding future leader of the Michigan ANG with the Gen. Omar Bradley Award from the local business community.
Mentioning the award, Lettinga shrugs.
"It means a lot, but I'm very internally motivated, so for me, it's still all about coming in and being able to help people."
Of all her experiences in the Michigan ANG, Lettinga believes her present assignment in recruiting gives her the best chance to do exactly that.
"My recruiter changed my life, and now I want to give that to other people – that's honestly the best feeling," she says. "I like helping people better themselves, whether it's in the gym, or kayaking or in their professional lives."
Regarding her future, Lettinga is upbeat, having experienced the opportunity that can come with hard work and an open mind.
"I'm still growing, but I know I want to be in the military, I want to serve, and I love my experience here so far."