The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

JR Veteran’s Day Profile – Mark Mullen: a presence in the service and on the sidelines

Mark Mullen
Great Lakes, Chicago, Illinois: Mullen at Recruit Training Command in 1996.

In honor of Veterans Day, we celebrate a veteran of our own, Mark Mullen, In-School Suspension Coordinator and JR varsity football offensive coordinator. 

Mullen is a military service veteran who served six years (1996-2002) in the United States Navy as a SeaBee. He joined as a third generation service member. “My grandpa and dad were in the service, both in the Navy. My dad was in the Construction Battalion [as a SeaBee], and my grandpa was in World War II as a sailor.” 

The SeaBees organization is part of the Construction Battalion branch of the Navy. It was formed in World War II, where construction workers built runways on islands in the Pacific Ocean, but were also trained as soldiers. Oftenly referred to as “C.B.’s” they now “build camps, towns, military installations and [aid with] humanitarian [activities],” says Mullen. They are not just utility and construction workers though, they are also trained as naval combat sailors in case of an emergency. 

Mullen graduated from Canyon Del Oro High School in 1992 and was quickly introduced to the real world. “I actually got married really young, I was 19 in Tucson, Arizona. That happened before the military,” he said. “We got married [and] started having kids, that was why the military called me.” He notes it as an opportunity to support his family: “It was like ‘shoot, I’ve got to make sure my kids get fed everyday, that kind of thing.”

He was first stationed in Great Lakes, Illinois for basic Recruit Training Command. He later moved to SeaBees training at the joint Sheppard Air Force base in Wichita Falls, Texas. He officially then became a part of a combat surface support team that set up, protected, and maintained military installations and camps, which came with deployment excursions to Puerto Rico and islands off of Japan and Korea.

Mullen took on the role of a utilities man, where he focused on plumbing and HVAC units. Alongside those duties, he was an M60’s combat gunner. “We’d go and support the [different Navy units] as they’d do their missions.” Some of the support came with tedious joint training exercises, where Mullen, amongst his unit partners put their combat skills to the test. In order to prepare in case of battle, Mullen’s squad “did a lot [of] [Opposing Force training], which was simulating an enemy.” He considers those times as fun and a golden opportunity to utilize combat skills in a controlled setting. “But, we always had to remember the reasons we were [there], to help save lives when a real world event happens.” 

Throughout his deployment, Mullen’s favorite destination outside of his hometown of Tucson, was his home port in Port Hueneme, California, where he and his family were stationed for six years. “It had all the guys I worked and trained with.” 

However, as time went on, Mullen knew he was missing out on quality time back home. “It was the separation. I had a wife and two kids, which is why I went [into the military] but you spend so much time away.” He returned to his family full-time in 2002, to his home an hour north of Los Angeles. “This was back in the 90s, [where] we didn’t have all of the internet for the most part,” Mullen said. “I was gone for six to seven months and I would get one phone call a week to the house. When you have little ones, it makes it tough.” Mullen and his family jointly decided for him to not re-enlist in the Navy after the conclusion of his service contract that year. 

21 years later, Mullen’s favorite moment during his time in the Navy was a specific convoy helicopter Blackhawks mission to Korea. “We were there for what’s called ‘Operational Foal Eagle,’ which is a security exercise conducted by the US at each military installation worldwide. “We got to fly into our spots in MC-15 Blackhawks. To load up, not sure what you’re about to get into was fun. Lifting off was thrilling, but scary.” 

From an alternate perspective, Mullen, 49, points to the service that taught him the essentials of being a true professional. “You learn the discipline of course, that’s the stuff that they want [to get across],” he said. “The work ethic is important, but you really learn the ‘why factor?’. It’s the stigma of why it is important to [persevere through adversity].” All in all, Mullen summarizes that the military also helps you realize you’re working to be a better person, but also towards a goal. “I learned more about myself, [through the] work ethic, [and also how] it’s important to be a part of a team.” 

Being part of a team comes with decision making. After the military, it was Mullen’s family who made the decision to move to DC. “Funny enough, when I was deployed during all that separation, my wife had to go find something to do. She wasn’t the type to sit at the house,” Mullen emphasized. “She got a job at the time as a secretary for an engineering company that helps [maintain and support] military bases. That turned into a career [where] she worked for the department of the Navy. She got an opportunity here in DC, and that brought us here.” 

For Mullen, his son convinced him to start coaching in 2005. In 1998, when Mullen got out of the military, he was a naval petty officer. “By that time I did a bunch of leadership training and it carries over quite a bit into coaching,” he asserted. In addition, Mullen spotlights his experience as a SeaBee blended into his coaching philosophy: “we are constantly training so that when an emergency or any situation comes up, we are prepared—[things like] fear, anxiety, [and] confusion. The only way to overcome it is by having faith in your preparations.”

Mullen prioritizes discipline, but also the importance of effort. “Everything you do is worth doing well. If it’s important enough to do, do it well.” In terms of football, Mullen highlights how he will impact the current Tigers as they settle into their off-season. “[It’s] getting the kids to understand to [and] be proud of their effort. No reason to not put your full effort into something, if it’s not the right effort.” 

JR Varsity football offensive coordinator Mark Mullen and senior quarterback Ward Dieterle during a timeout against Eastern Senior High School. (Nathan Watson)

Since joining the JR football coaching staff as an offensive coordinator in November of last year, Mullen acknowledges that it was the location that stood out to him. “[My family and I] decided we were going to move to this side of town. I opened up the map, saw where the high schools were [and I] didn’t really want to do the private school thing.”

Looking back upon his service, Mullen maintains that the military is a chance to explore the world and meet new people. “It was a good opportunity to get out of the house. You become a more well-rounded person. It’s a [change of scenery and you learn] there’s more than just what you see in front of you on a day-to-day basis.”

Now, since moving to the District, “I was lucky that I got out. A lot of people I know didn’t,” said Mullen. Veteran’s Day is coming up on November 11 and Mullen regards it as “a good time to celebrate the soldiers and sailors. I know Memorial Day is more of the day to do that, but that’s how I see it.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Justin Glenn, Assistant Sports Editor
Justin is a sports fanatic.. you’ll most likely see him with a baseball cap of some sort throughout the hallways. If he isn’t writing about high school sports, he’s likely watching a D.C. sports team, NASCAR or some other professional league in his free time. Outside of sports, he enjoys the outdoors and watching Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch, besides that, he’s an average out-going person.
  • 2023-24: Assistaant Sports Editor

Comments (0)

All The Beacon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *