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Navy honors Gresham woman with award


Back in high school, Kerri Scranton couldn’t wait to graduate. She wanted out of the small town in Florida where she lived with her parents and younger sister. Out of the house brimming with dysfunction.

Growing up, she’d lose herself in travel books, looking at pictures of far-off destinations while dreaming of seeing the world.

So she enlisted in the Navy.

Now, more than 20 years later, the Gresham woman is being honored by the Navy Recruiting Command with its National Recruiter of the Year award in the category of Support Person of the Year.by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO  - Spc. 1st. Class Petty Officer Kerri Scranton was given a national award by the Navy.

Scranton is one of only 13 honored who is not a recruiter. Instead, she is an administrative officer managing the Portland-based administrative office for the Navy’s recruiting district.

The district covers five states including Oregon, southern Washington, northern California, most of Nevada and part of Idaho.

Since starting in the office in 2010, Scranton has taken over the duties for her chief, who retired last April. Her exemplary job performance won her the local Support Person of the Year award, leading to being named Support Person of the Year for the region west of the Mississippi River, culminating in her latest honor at the national level.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Scranton, 39, from behind her desk at the Airport Business Center in Portland. Although she is not a recruiter, she works with them to iron out a variety of issues that sailors may encounter, such as problems with pay raises or benefit eligibility.

“I love my job,” she said. “I like fixing things and finding solutions to problems. Letting them (sailors) know about something they didn’t know they were entitled to.”

In keeping with the Navy tradition of travel, the 13 national winners traveled to Washington, D.C., for the week of Jan. 14.

There, the winners were on parade, meeting dignitaries such as the Secretary of the Navy and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, and touring the Pentagon and the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

“I was so hoping to meet the president, but I didn’t,” Scranton said, noting that the trip was just before President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

Not too shabby for a girl from a town so small it had just one blinking traffic light.

Scranton lived in Richlands, Va., until she was 13, when her family moved to Malone, Fla.

While in high school, Scranton approached the military recruiters who’d visited. Her grandfather was in the Army and her dad served four years in the Air Force during the Vietnam war but stayed stateside.

But Scranton wasn’t motivated by a desire to carry out the family’s tradition of military service.

“I wanted to see the world and leave home,” she said.

Her relationship with her parents was strained and college was financially out of reach. She was a talented artist, but art school was “super expensive.” Besides, she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to go to college.

So, she approached recruiters for the Air Force and Navy at her high school.

“And the Navy painted a prettier picture than the Air Force,” she said. “I love the ocean, and I think that kind of won me over.”

After graduating from Malone High School — she was one of 52 in her graduating class — she spent about a year and a half on the USS Hunley, a submarine tender. About half of the sailors were women, so she didn’t encounter any harassment or discrimination.

The ship was decommissioned in 1994. Then she became one of the first female sailors to embark on the USS Ashland. Of the 300 person crew, only 20 were women. There was some low-level harassment or “testing the waters” as she called it. But Scranton didn’t let it get to her.

“I’m sort of assertive and fun,” she said. “I make friends quickly.”

From 1992 to 1996, she traveled the globe participating in goodwill missions delivering sewing machines, shoes and painting schools. She spent a month in Africa and five months in South America.

Hoping to get a better sense of what direction she wanted to go in the Navy, Scranton joined the Navy Reserve for three years.

This allowed her to serve one weekend a month as a reservist while trying on different careers.

Along the way, she got married and in 1999 had her first child, Nicholas. Suddenly, the stability of being active duty took on new appeal. She spent three years in Sicily, and had her daughter, Kimber, in Japan, where Scranton spent four years.

While in Japan, her marriage ended but a new love bloomed. She got remarried. Her husband, Blase, also was in the military and in 2006 their daughter, Mackenzie, was born.

The family relocated to Whidbey Island, Wash., for three years, while Scranton fulfilled some mysterious job duties. She worked in electronic warfare with Squadron VAQ-130 and can’t talk about it.

“They’re planes and they have a very important mission but I can’t say anything more than that,” she said.

In 2010, her family moved to Gresham, and she began working in the Portland administrative office. Based on her national award, it seems as though she’s found her career niche.

“I have an amazing chain of command,” she said. “I really do love my job.”

When not at work, she spends time with her husband — who is the restaurant manager for Helium Comedy Club in Portland, and enrolled at Mt. Hood Community College — and her three children. They are involved in science, dance, gymnastics and Girl Scouts. Scranton is troop leader for Gresham Troop No. 45559.

Scranton said she couldn’t be more pleased about the direction her life has taken. She’s traveled the globe — “I sketched ‘David’ in Rome,” she said — has a fulfilling career and an amazing family, she said.

She even inspired her little sister to join the military.

“I literally came from nothing — a very small town that provided few career opportunities,” she said. “The Navy has taken me in a direction I never even dreamed of.”