Trailblazer lieutenant Melanie Martins is a supply officer serving aboard guided-missile submarine USS Ohio (SSGN 726). She is also one of the first Filipinas to qualify as a submariner and earn her submarine warfare insignia in September 2019.
In earning her “dolphins,” denoting the rank’s corresponding metal pin, Martins added to the list of women expanding among the elite community of Navy personnel. Martins claims she felt at home with her submarine family immediately.
“I felt like I knew my wardroom for a very long time when I first got there,” she told the U.S. Navy’s official online publication. “There was no awkward moment with anyone, even in the enlisted ranks.”
Martins, originally from Angeles City in Pampanga, Philippines, described her first days on board guided-missile submarine USS Ohio in 2013 as “scary,” the complicated procedure involved in boarding and disembarking the vessel being particularly daunting.
“I was so scared to climb up and down the escape trunk,” Martins explained. “The passageways are so tight, and the compartments are confusing, but everyone is willing to show and teach you where everything is, so I got familiar with the boat quickly.”
According to Navy Times, female officers first began serving on missile submarines in 2011. Martins admitted expecting submarine life to be hard. “I was wrong,” she admitted to the U.S. Navy. “It is really, really hard.”
“There are times when I am too busy and I ask myself, ‘Why did I do this at all?’” the lieutenant and mother of one reflected. “But then I realize that not all people are offered this opportunity. I have to grab it and be the best that I can be.”
Her “best” paid off when Martins earned her dolphins in September 2019. The newly qualified submariner was quick to credit her fleet for providing the support and expertise she needed to help her achieve her success.
“In the submarine fleet we are close to each other, not only physically, but it is a brotherhood,” she said. “No matter the rank, if you are doing something wrong that can potentially kill everyone on the ship, you will be corrected.”
Submerged beneath ocean, the lieutenant explained, one small mistake could mean disaster for the entire crew. In return for the trust and diligence of her submarine family, Martins cooks meals from her home country to nurture her colleagues’ health and hearts as well as their physical safety.
“I cook Filipino dishes underway sometimes,” she said. “I am the only Pinoy aboard my submarine, so I show everyone our dishes. We never run out of rice, of course!”
The lieutenant cited her family as her biggest source of inspiration. “My family motivates me to be the best I can be, especially my daughter,” she reflected. “I want her to be proud of me one day.”
Chief culinary specialist Dominique Saavedra, assigned to USS Michigan (SSGN 727), was the first female enlisted Sailor ever to earn her dolphins. Saavedra received the pin at a ceremony held at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in August 2016, saying in a Navy release that she “couldn’t be more proud.”
Saavedra’s colleague, Captain Joe Turk, commended her achievement as a triumph for all aspiring female submariners. “Chief Saavedra’s accomplishment reinforces the fact that there are very capable women who have the talent and desire to succeed in the submarine force,” he said.