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MCTSSA Mustang highlighted for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Wil Williams | | October 10, 2012

She’s a Mustang! In military terms, a Mustang is an officer who spent time in the enlisted ranks.


Hailing from Albuquerque, N.M. – with a Hispanic heritage stretching from Mexico to Spain – Captain Kanella Hatchett of the Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity (MCTSSA) opted to enlist in the Marine Corps while in her first semester of college.

“Growing up I was always the ‘Tom Boy’ and interested in the military, so I joined ROTC [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] while in high school,” Hatchett said. “I knew what I wanted to be: a Marine. So I reached for the stars, applying for multiple congressional nominations to the military academies. I did receive nominations to attend West Point and the Merchant Marine Academy, but my heart was with the Naval Academy.”

Since she did not get into the military academy she wanted, Hatchett decided to go to another college with the idea of eventually getting a commission and going into the Marine Corps.

“Where I came from and where I grew up it was all low income,” the Captain said. “It was a little bit difficult working full time and going to college, so I decided to go ahead and enlist into the Marine Corps, apply for a commissioning package and work for my degree.”

That was the plan. After Hatchett enlisted in 2001, she went to Okinawa as a Private First Class, working as an Admin Clerk and Camp Guard. Subsequently, she was deployed to Korea. She took part-time courses with the University of Maryland extension program while overseas, and applied and was accepted in BOOST (Broadened Opportunity for Officer Selection and Training), a Marine Corps college prep program. Subsequently, she was accepted and attended the University of New Mexico for three years under the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program coupled with Officers Candidate School (OCS).

“OCS is the officers’ version of boot camp,” says Hatchett, so I thought it would be the same experience as the enlisted boot camp. It wasn’t, and I can’t tell you how many times I thought, ‘Why did I do this to myself again?’”

Seven years after joining the Marine Corps, Hatchett completed her commissioning as a Second Lieutenant by attending The Basic School (TBS). Logistics school came next, followed by a series of assignments, including deployment to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan.

General Alfred Gray, the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, once said: "There is no honor greater than to be called Mustang. You have long epitomized the warrior virtues of courage, devotion to duty, sacrifice and imaginative leadership." Not only is Hatchett a Mustang, but she’s also the first person in her family to receive a college degree and the first to become a commissioned officer in any military service. 

Promoted this month to Captain – 11 years after she enlisted – Hatchett now oversees and orchestrates all the logistical needs of MCTSSA’s facilities and high-tech labs located at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“I’m proud of my Hispanic heritage, and I think it is a privilege to be here and serve in the military,” Hatchett said.  “I think there are a lot of people who have gone before me who have faced a whole lot more adversity than I have. I appreciate that, and I’m carrying it forward for those behind to come and trace.”