Meet Garrett Walton

Story by U.S. Army Sgt Marla Ogden
California Military Department Public Affairs

Jan. 17, 2024

Los Alamitos, Calif.— Garrett Walton, 23, call sign Phoenix, dedicates his days to making fundamental science concepts enjoyable for fifth-grade students at DoD's STARBASE Los Alamitos site.

Before joining the STARBASE team, Walton was a member of the Cal State Long Beach collegiate rocketry team that utilized the STARBASE facilities at Joint Forces Training Base to test their rockets.

"I always wish I could have had something like this when I was in fifth grade," he said. "To now have the opportunity to show kids that there's so much more to science than reading out of a book or listening to a presentation, where they can actually experiment with hands-on learning, is so important to me."

"For a lot of people, especially kids, real science is kind of intangible, so it's tough for them to see themselves doing this and having the confidence to pursue careers in STEM," Walton explained. "When students come to STARBASE, we aim to make learning really fun for them so that it opens a door for them."

Receiving mentorship and guidance in STEM at a young age is crucial for demonstrating to youth that such pathways are not only accessible but also achievable, he said.

"For me, being on the younger side as an instructor and having an engineering background, shows them that what I do is not that far off or far away from them; and that if they want to pursue their interests in science, then that's totally something they can do," he said.

Walton is regularly approached by enthusiastic students seeking advice on securing their dream job, just as he did at STARBASE.

"I tell them, 'Go to college, get a degree or credential,' and that science isn't just limited to here," he said. "I think that definitely opens that door for them because it's one of those things you don't know about until you're exposed to it."

"STARBASE is just the coolest place," he said. "Through my time here, it's been really great to see not only what we do, but how many people were able to serve. We serve almost 5,000 students a year, so having the opportunity to do that is really cool."