WORTHINGTON — Local sports fans may remember her as the 6-foot-3 Worthington High School basketball standout who went on to play college hoops at Mississippi State University. Now living halfway across the country, her teammates are of the military variety.
They know her as Cpl. Martha Omot, a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Quantico, Va. She’s been there for nearly two years.
With her four-year contract wrapping up next summer, Omot is considering her options. She may re-enlist, or she may leave the Marines to pursue her master’s degree in a psychology-related field. Her bachelor’s degree is in educational psychology.
She one day hopes to work in the realm of Christian counseling.
Omot — she went by Martha Alwal during her high school and college days — enlisted in the Marines after college and a stint playing professional basketball overseas. An injury left her considering her next move, and a friend of her sister, already serving in the Marines, had spoken highly of the military.
In March 2017, after working with a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based recruiter, Omot entered boot camp in Parris Island, S.C. through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
“They teach you military ways before you ship out to boot camp,” Omot said. “I think basketball set me up in that sense that I had stability and structure in basketball — I was disciplined in that aspect.”
Still, the 12-week boot camp was intense. Kids entering the Marines out of high school — those who maybe never had to answer to anyone else — were in for a culture shock, she said.
“They try to break you down to build you back up,” Omot shared. “They break that out of you within the first two weeks — being an individual. Everything is about the team. There is no ‘I’, there is no ‘me’ in boot camp.”
From boot camp, Omot completed Marine Combat Training (MCT) at Camp Geiger, N.C. She and her “brothers and sisters in arms” were trained for battle. They learned new things, like how to throw grenades. Ten-mile hikes were common.
After MCT, Omot entered her Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at Camp LeJeune, N.C. It’s where she was trained as an administration specialist.
“The Marine Corp can’t run without our specialty,” she said. “You have people in finance, medical paperwork, to run supplies.”
Omot’s role is to work with Marines who are injured and on limited duty. She makes sure their paperwork is processed and reflected in the system. Most of her days are spent on the phone and in front of a computer. Her unit is non-deployable.
“I work for headquarters Marine Corps,” she said. “Everyone in the Marine Corps answers to my section. We make sure that things are seen through.”
Omot said she was attracted to the Marine Corps after meeting and talking with other female Marines, including Yah Cooper of Worthington.
“At Mississippi State, they brought in Army recruiters and I was just in awe of the females in uniform,” Omot said.
She also wanted to give back to the country that took her in as a refugee at the age of 3.
“The reason my family came to the United States was because there was genocide,” she said. “Had America not granted us asylum, I don’t know where we’d be today.”
Omot is the daughter of Abella and Opothy Omot of Worthington. She has five siblings — Naakoo Omot in the Twin Cities, Apiew, Achan and Kelka (a WHS sophomore) Alwal of Worthington and Diing Majur, a fifth-grader at Worthington Middle School.
“I miss my family,” Omot said, noting she plans to return to Worthington for a visit in mid-January. She misses her friends, too, though many have moved away from the community she calls home.
“Things have changed so much since I left,” said the 2011 WHS graduate.
If it weren’t for Minnesota winters, Omot might consider returning to Minnesota. She prefers the East Coast climate and hopes to stay there even after the military. In addition to the milder temperatures, she enjoys being a short 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., and five hours from New York City.
“As of right now, if I do stay in the Marine Corps, I would want to stay in the Quantico area,” she said. “But, wherever the Marine Corps needs me is where I’ll go.”
Omot said being in the military has taught her discipline, attention to detail and that the littlest things matter.
“I’ve learned to be punctual,” she said with a laugh, noting, “I was late for everything before I joined.
“I’ve learned accountability is very important — to know where your Marines are and making sure your Marines are being taken care of,” she added.
Above all, she said, “You know you’re going to get to give back, serve and be a part of something bigger than yourself.”