I joined the Marine Corps at 17-and-a-half, right out of high school. From my junior year, I had two jobs that I was working to support not only myself, but my family as well. I wanted to go to college, but at the same time I was a little apprehensive about that four years — would I really be able to handle it?
I was working at a fast-food place, and a Marines Corps recruiter walked in wearing his dress blues. I was flipping burgers, and he came up to me while I was behind the counter, and he said, “Do you like what you’re doing?” and I said, “No.” So he gave me his card, and he said, “I’m not here to sell you anything or to make you change your mind about what you’re doing in your life. I’m here to provide you an opportunity. Call me when you’re ready to sit down and have a chat with me.” I thought about it that night when I got home, and the next day I called him and said, “Hey, I want this.”
I was in the Delayed Enlistment Program for two months, and I had a ship date of late that summer to go to Parris Island. My mom was a single parent, raising myself, my three brothers and my sister. So it was a big thing for me, leaving home and doing that.
When I was asked to pick a career (from those I qualified for), I felt that financial management was going to be the most challenging of all of my choices and one that I can use after retirement. I went through the Marine Corps Financial Management School at Camp Johnson in North Carolina. It was a three-month-long training that included not only the physical aspects of being a Marine, but what I do now on a day-to-day basis.
I’m currently based in Arlington, Va., assigned to Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies — a component of Defense Human Resources Activity, which is one of the 14 field agencies in the Department of Defense. We do a lot to support recruiting and to provide good data to the recruitment commands about what’s really going on in the current world. It’s a very challenging and important process. We need to accomplish the mission and continue to attract young men and women who will defend our country with the highest level of skill.
I deal a lot with contracts, here, for commercials and market research for recruiting and data management. It’s really opened my eyes up as far as financial management goes — including how funds are passed from Congress to the Department of Defense and how to manage money effectively for our commanders.
Things change every day, so I have to stay on top of new laws and new orders or directives. I’m also the liaison between the contracting officer and the contractors. My job is to ensure that the funds are being passed properly and that the contracts are being awarded in a timely manner. I’m there to make sure the paperwork is properly annotated. I do a lot of follow-up phone calls and reports using contracting and assessment data base systems.
In my spare time, I’m a real big advocate of community service and giving back. I’ve been through so much, and I understand that life is not guaranteed. The Big Brothers Program is my way of giving back to the community. I got my Little Brother a Marine Corps jacket he wears to school. I can’t get him to take it off. The director at Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies has been more than helpful allowing me the opportunity to spend time with these kids. I mean, to the point where I was awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
There’s so much potential to grow in the Marine Corps and in the Military if you just take advantage of what’s offered to you, do your job and do it right. I’ll find out in July if I’ll be selected to the rank of gunnery sergeant. Then I’ll start thinking about where I want to go next.
I’m 27 now, but in 10 years I’m going to be retiring — which is hard to say. I can retire at 38 after 20 years, but if it goes to 30, I would love it — I would love to do 30 years!