(In observance of Women’s History Month in March, Navy Talent Acquisition Group San Antonio is recognizing the contributions of Senior Chief Information Technician Kristal Pena, NTAG San Antonio lead Warrior Challenge Program talent scout)


Every morning, five days a week, Senior Chief Information Technician Kristal Pena is trainingfuture Sailorsto go beyond their limits who are trying to make it through one of the Navy’s elite programs.


Pena, of Santa Ana, Calif., is the Navy Talent Acquisition Group San Antonio lead Warrior Challenge Program talent scout at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. In her role, she makes sure future Sailors who are in the Warrior Challenge Program, or WCP, are physically fitto meet the rigorousstandards of the programandareready to pass the Navy Challenge Physical Standards Test, or PST, prior to going to boot camp.


WCP is the program the Navy uses to identify and develop future Sailors who are in the Delayed Entry Program for unique and demanding career fields in the Navy, including Naval Special Warfare.Pena develops and supervises the workouts for the future Sailors in WCP, which take place every morning at 7a.m. at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.


A former Navy drill sergeant, Pena said she incorporates a boot camp styleto her workouts to push her future Sailors to go beyond their limits in meeting the high standards expected of them.


“They don’t know their potential, most of them, until they come to our program,” Pena said. “We show them how much stronger they can be mentally and physically and really, they have something to strive for. We set high expectations for these future Sailors.”


The 42-year-old Pena leads by example by participating in the strenuous workouts she plans for the future Sailors half her age.


“I don’t feel I can be leading them if I can’t do what they can do,” Pena said. “I’m never going to tell my Sailor something to do physically if I can’t do it. I’m not that type of leader because I tell them they got to do a ladder of 200 pushups in matter of 10 minutes, then I’m doing it with them.”


Pena, who has 23 years of service in the Navy, started at NTAG San Antonio in 2019as an officer recruiter. She became the Lead Warrior Challenge Program Talent Scout in February 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.


The pandemic brought many challenges for Pena in how she trained and worked out the WCP future Sailors.For nine weeks,because of restrictions,the recruits couldn’t come on to base toworkout. They had to train at home from workouts posted online.


Even during a pandemic, Pena said shestill found waysto motive the recruits and hold them accountable to the high standards they were expected to adhere to.


“We had to basically motivate these Sailors every day to keep going, to keep working out,” Pena said.


From May to June of last year, Pena said the recruits had to make up a lot of ground in theirphysical training. Within six weeks after WCP future Sailorswere allowed back on base, NTAG San Antonio was still able to make their goals for future Sailors entering into special warfare programs.


Pena served for 15 years on active duty, including deployments in Africa, Japan, and Guamand as a recruit division commander, or drill sergeant, fortwo duty assignments totalingseven years at RecruitTraining CommandGreat Lakes, Illinois.She started her Navy career as a radiomanin 1997.


Pena has been a reservist for the last eight years, which includes her serviceat NTAG San Antonio.


As a woman serving in the Navy, the single mother of four daughters is thankful for the peoplewho have guided her throughout her military career.


“I feel honored to have had great mentors that really believed in me to get me to the point where I’m at today,” Pena said.


Pena is passing on the knowledge she has gained during her years of experience intheNavy as a senior enlisted mentor for women future Sailorswho are intheDelayed Entry Program through NTAG San Antonio.She meets with these future Sailorsevery month via Zoom.


She said the future Sailorsask her questions about her career in the Navy, including how she ended up in the Navy, what to expect being a woman in the Navyand asking Pena about her experiences in the Navy that can help them.


“I tell them that nothing is going to be handed to them,” Pena said. “It’s not going to be the easiest thing they’ve ever done, but it’s the most rewarding thing. I kind of give them a perspective of what to expect and the best ways to come out of every situation positively and taking all of those opportunities that come their way.


”In addition to her duties at NTAG San Antonio, Pena is a certified firearms instructor and is a federal law enforcement officer working with asylum seekers who want to become U.S. citizens.


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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)