Local man sets career path through Navy Reserves
By Brady Extin | The Times-Post
PENDLETON — Just a year ago, Mark Nielsen was a senior at Pendleton Heights High School doing his part to honor the community’s veterans.
His Eagle Scout project, the Celebration of Service Garden, was unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Veterans Day at Pendleton American Legion Post 117.
The project involved placing memorial bricks on each side of the building’s front entrance that stated the veteran’s name, branch of service, and dates of service. At the time, over 100 bricks had been placed.
Now, 11 months later, Nielsen himself has completed boot camp and was sworn into the Navy Reserves.
“I’ve really liked it so far. It’s a big change compared to high school,” Nielsen said. “Their entire job is to turn you from a civilian to a sailor. That’s their whole mentality behind everything.”
Joining the Navy Reserves wasn’t always in the cards for Nielsen, though, and it wasn’t until after graduating from Pendleton Heights in May that he decided the Navy would be his best option going forward.
Wanting to enter a trade school to become an electrician, Nielsen found that the Navy Reserves could help him with that schooling and training, and pay him to do it at the same time. With his background as an Eagle Scout, it seemed like a good choice.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school. I was kind of lost. I didn’t think college was the route for me, and I wanted to go to trade school and be an electrician,” Nielsen said. “I looked into the Navy, and they offered a similar job and schooling, but I was able to get paid while doing it.”
While the Celebration of Service Garden project completed by Nielsen a year ago helped him earn the highest scout badge, it also helped him in his effort to join the Navy Reserves.
“When I enlisted I put Eagle Scout on my application, and that automatically got me put into E3 instead of E1,” Nielsen said.
E3, or Seaman, is the highest non-rated, apprentice rank in the Navy, and with his Eagle Scout background, Nielsen was able to skip the rankings of E1/Seaman Recruit and E2/Seaman Apprentice.
Nielsen shipped out and began his 10 weeks of recruit training on July 12 in Great Lakes, Illinois, and graduated from boot camp on Sept. 22.
“We are so proud of this young man,” Pendleton American Legion adjutant Ellen King said.
At boot camp, Nielsen was appointed RCPO (recruit chief petty officer) by the Recruit Division Commander, which is the highest appointed position a recruit can hold during basic training.
He is now stationed at Great Lakes Naval Base, a neighboring base to where he completed boot camp, for his Accession Schooling and Apprentice Technical Training.
Ascension School lasts for 22 weeks. It’s where sailors go to receive technical training in their selected military occupational specialty field, while the Apprentice Technical Training, which lasts 13 weeks, will help prepare Nielsen for an electrician career outside of the Navy. At Ascension School, Nielsen is training as an electronics technician.
“He has worked so hard to get where he is and many thanks to all those in our community that have influenced him in one way or another,” Mark’s mother, Erica Nielsen, said. “He is a great representation for scouting, our town and America. We are proud of the newest U.S. Navy Sailor.”
After graduation from the two schools, Nielsen plans to return home to Pendleton to continue his training in an electrician trade school program.
As a member of the Navy Reserves, he will have to report to a reserve station one weekend every month and will have to report for one two-week extended stay per year.