Exploring the world through military service
Being stationed in Guantanamo Bay, before the infamous detention camp was established, meant having to make your own entertainment in a place that at times could feel isolating.
But for Gresham's Karina Yoder, living in the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base meant surrounding herself and exploring the Caribbean culture. During her 20-year career with the Navy she would go on more than 100 scuba dives and learn to catch her own lobster. Yoder would play sports with others on the base, walk the island and visit with locals.
"Every duty situation is what you make of it," Yoder said.
That was a mindset that stuck with her throughout her two decades with the Navy, and something she passed along to her own children, both of whom also served in the military. Yoder, who now works for Portland Waste Management alongside her daughter, Alyssa Mangione, used all of her years with the Navy to experience new places and cultures.
"I made friends throughout the military — you connect with people you wouldn't meet anywhere else," she said. "The military is a family, you don't forget those you serve with."
Growing up in Yreka, a small northern California town, there weren't many opportunities available for Yoder. She could have gone to college or settled down with a local rancher — two choices that didn't appeal to someone with wanderlust.
It was during a tennis match in her junior year of high school that she first thought about a career with the military. Her friend, and opponent on the other side of the net, was in the Navy, and hearing his stories resonated with Yoder. That summer she signed up, and 10 days after graduating she shipped out in 1980.
Her first stop was in Millington, Tennessee, at the Naval Support Activity Mid-South, which at the time had about 10,000 students. It was a culture shock for Yoder.
"I was surrounded by stuff I had never been exposed to," she said. "I met people from all walks of life."
Serving in the Human Resources/Recruiting branch of the Navy, she would go to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Pensacola, Florida; back to Cuba; the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier during its maiden voyage in 1995; and San Diego, where she eventually retired as a Chief Petty Officer.
She went on tours in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Australia, Tasmania, Nova Scotia, and St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"My first time into port in Dubai was a bit of a shell shock for me, because women were treated so differently," Yoder said. "We had to ask men to get us things from the market."
While on the aircraft carrier he slept in a room no bigger than her current office with Waste Management. She shared the space with 18 others on bunk beds. There were also communal bathrooms and showers, all of which took some getting used to.
"The gal who slept opposite of me snored like a freight train," Yoder said. "I had to get creative — sometimes I would wake her up to say someone was trying to call her. When she went to investigate, I would try to fall asleep before she got back."
Yoder's daughter was born in Pensacola. With both of her parents serving, Mangione would travel to many different places early in life.
"Being a military kid you learn to go with the flow," she said.
For Mangione, the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Like her mother, she wasn't sure what life held after graduating from Barlow High School in 2008. She worked part-time jobs in retail for a while, but eventually was pulled into the military.
"I decided to go for it — I wanted an adventure of my own," she said of joining the military in 2012.
Having both her parents there to guide her through the process helped, as did seeing her brother, Jeff Mangione, thriving in the Air Force. Yoder brought her mom along with her to the recruiter, where she had only one request. She didn't want to be stationed on a ship like the John C. Stennis, after hearing Yoder talk about the close quarters.
"A ship is like a floating city of 5,000 people," she said. "You are stuffed into a box."
Mangione joined the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees. Her duties were helping build bases, hospitals, schools and whatever else was needed. She was mainly stationed in Ventura, California, but also went to Japan. .
Mangione served four years in the Navy as a heavy equipment operator, before returning to Oregon. She now lives in Vancouver and works as a garbage truck driver for Portland Waste Management, where her mom is in the HR department. Yoder also is active with the Gresham VFW Post 180 and United Service Organizations nonprofit group
"Serving in the military is not for everyone, you have to be able to adapt to the pace, follow the rules and see the big picture," Yoder said. "But I loved what I did with the Navy — it was important."
U.S. Navy, 1980-2000
U.S. Navy Seabees, 2012-16
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