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Catherine Matchem-Watkins, a Marine Corps Family Team Building Trainer with Marine Corps Community Services Iwakuni, poses for a photo with her family at Akiyoshidai Safari Land, Japan. Matchem-Watkins, a native of Chicago, Illinois, learned time management skills at a young age that she continues to use to this day to effectively balance time with her family, work, and volunteering in her busy schedule. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Dahkareo Pritchett)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Dahkareo Pritchett

Faces of Iwakuni Mrs. Catherine Matchem-Watkins

12 May 2024 | Lance Cpl. Dahkareo Pritchett Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan

 In a large family, being the middle child can often mean that you don't have enough time for the things you want to do. Whether there wasn’t enough time to enjoy personal interest, or too much time spent on attending different events for family, there may not be enough time for everyone. Catherine Matchem-Watkins was this middle child, and she was determined to find a way to include her own personal interests in her daily activities.

Growing up wasn’t easy for Matchem-Watkins on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, especially being part of a family of 15.

“I am child number seven. I have six older sisters, two younger sisters, and four younger brothers,” said Matchem-Watkins. Half her life was spent living with her dad and the other half with her mom. Having six younger siblings, she had to step up and help raise them due to the difficult circumstances while still going to school every day.

Throughout her time as a student, Matchem-Watkins consistently earned straight A grades. She had a love of learning and a thirst for knowledge. Even beyond just academics, her willingness to be involved drove her to participate in the school’s student counsel, orchestra, cheer team, and chess club.

“My younger self was quite the bookworm; the tall nerdy girl who could talk about math or science for hours,” said Matchem-Watkins. “If I wasn't face deep in a book, I was out playing sports with my siblings.”

Although Matchem-Watkins was academically successful, she still faced challenges. One problem she recalls is how her family was always running late for events. However, she did not let her family's disorganization slow her down as an individual. She constantly made sure to be ready early, and she kept her belongings organized because she did not enjoy of the anxiety-inducing feeling of having others wait on her.

Even after Matchem-Watkins had established herself as someone who was always punctual, she still had a mentor growing up who had time management skills that she aspired to emulate. Hannah Vernal was Matchem-Watkins's youth mentor, and she was a person that was always on time for their activities, never wanted to be late, and even showed Matchem-Watkins different ways to balance her time and life schedules. Vernal still influences her to this day.

Currently, Matchem-Watkins works for MCCS in the Personal and Professional Development Department. As an MCCS Team Building Trainer, she educates service members and their families on various aspects of military life and has an opportunity to share her time management skills .

“I’ve worked closely with the command team on other installations, and I saw how they’re work helped new families, seasoned families and service members navigating this crazy military life,” said Matchem-Watkins. Inspired by their work, she also wanted to support the families in the way that other spouses helped her and her husband when they first got to the fleet.

When Matchem-Watkins isn’t working her regular job, she volunteers as a coach with for youth cheerleading and youth gymnastics.

“I decided to volunteer with youth sports because I am very athletic, love teaching kids and building on the skills they currently possess,” explained Matchem-Watkins. Her biggest motivation for coaching is to make a difference in the lives of the kids she works with.

“Cat and I have been coaching cheerleading together for two years now. She’s an amazing person to work with,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Addisyn Kave, a postal clerk at MCAS Iwakuni. “She's a great leader and goes out of her way for you, work related or not. She's always someone you can look to.”

Dealing with family, work, and volunteer responsibilities can be very stressful without proper time management. Matchem-Watkins is constantly juggling items on her to-do list and trying to prioritize her family's events to make sure there is an equal amount of time spent on family, sports, work, and fitness.

Matchem-Watkins coached six different cheer teams last year due to a coaching shortage, and her ability to manage time was as important as ever. Matchem-Watkins and one other coach sat down and planned practices and the game schedule for the entire season. However, even during busy season of youth sports, when it comes to her work-life balance, she prioritizes her family because she feels that if her family is taken care of, she can focus on accomplishing all of her daily tasks.

“I want to be the role model I did not have growing up, ” explained Matchem-Watkins. “Making a difference in the community that I live in is a driving force for me to constantly do better and to continue doing positive things.”

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