Maricela Grove tells her story as U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Five with St. Croix as the foundation of her life experiences.
Grove grew up on St. Croix and graduated from St. Croix Central High School in 1994. She attended the University of the Virgin Islands for one semester.
Her parents still live on St. Croix. Her mother is a housewife and her father worked for the Water and Power Authority for 23 years.
At a job interview at the Hess Oil Refinery, she was told she needed life experiences to get hired.
“So, I joined the Army to get some life experiences. I earned a high score on the military entrance exam. I entered the Army as an electronics warfare signals intelligence analyst in 1995 and graduated from the University of Alaska with an associate’s degree. I did not think I would remain in the military. I actually joined for the college education, but the military became a passion.”
Grove said at first she wanted to be a nurse, but it was too bloody, she said. The intelligence field seemed very interesting, so she decided to try that.
The Army’s military intelligence is responsible for all the collected intelligence during Army missions and provides essential information that can save lives of soldiers fighting on the front lines.
Grove lived in open barracks with other women during her basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. She was unable to completer her physical training and failed her PT tests.
“PT was more challenging than I could have imagined,” said Grove.
“I learned how to be a signal intelligence analyst at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, but again, I failed my PT tests,” said Grove. “ It was a struggle.”
When she was assigned to Fort Richardson in Alaska, she cried for two weeks. She thought it was a bad idea to send an island girl to Alaska, but she had no choice.
Throughout her tour in Alaska, the PT struggle came back to haunt her. She could not meet the Army’s physical standards.
“I wanted to become a warrant officer and I knew my PT scores had to improve. I spent my leave, 45 days straight, between duty stations working on conditioning,” Grove said. “I was fortunate to have mentors who took me under their wing, which boosted my confidence.”
Grove received the highest score on the Army PT Test – 300 – at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 1999. She was on her way.
She graduated from the Air Assault Course in 2000 and was selected for Warrant Officer School in 2001. She took the Warrant Officers Basic Course in 2002 and the Warrant Officer Advance Course in 2008.
The Airborne School, the Warrant Officer Intermediate Leaders Course, the Force Management Class and the Warrant Officer Senior Education Course were all completed on Grove’s schedule from 2009 through 2015.
“I like to think that I am that island girl who did well. I was given an opportunity and my work ethic paid off. The Army will give you what you put into it. There is a willingness of those in the military to help you, if you will ask for help,” she said.
Grove has gotten to see the world through her tenure in the military and her parents were able to come along for the ride. There are perks for being in the military, she said. You get to see the world and you can bring your loved ones with you, she added.
“My parents spent close to a year in Germany and traveled with me on two of my tours. I’ve gone all over the United States,” Grove said.
Grove is a warrant officer five, which is almost as high a status as a general in the U.S. Army.
“I encourage the youth in the territory to seek out the military,” she said. “There is much to learn and much to benefit from service in the military. When the recruiters come, take the exam,” she said. “The results come back quickly. Those who apply will know what the military offers. There are different branches that one can consider.”
“It’s so important that young people take advantage of the opportunities the military offers,” Grove said. She has a 20-year-old niece who is passionate about the National Guard. She worked with her niece to score high on the Army Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
For the past 15 years, Grove has maxed all of her physical training exams.
“Looking back at the last 23 years in the Army, I know I made the right choice,” Grove said. “”It game me the ‘life experiences’ and much more.”
Grove is a member of the Department of the Army Military Intelligence, Plans and Integrations Directorate, Signals Intelligence Team at the Pentagon. She works at many other assignments in the U.S. and in Germany.
Chief Grove’s many military awards include the Bronze Star, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
She and her husband of 16 years, Ronald, have two sons, Jonathan, 15 and Alexander, 13.