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Author Ross Nussbaum in Marjah, Afghanistan, 2011

At the 03XX Foundation, our mission is to provide peer-to-peer mentorship to Infantry Marine Veterans and Navy Corpsman who’ve served in an Infantry Unit. We do this through our case management system; a Marine or Corpsman contacts us for help and we connect them to one of our expert volunteers who helps find them real solutions to solve their problems. One the Career Transition side, the one consistent theme I see in our community is that we don’t know how to manage our personal story in a way that a civilian employer can understand. This is not a skill that we’re taught or that comes naturally.

Marine Infantryman have some of the BEST set of subjective skills borne out of our military service. We persevere through insurmountable obstacles that would beat the average person into submission and we accomplish our mission. We operate far away from Headquarters, putting us in a position to make dozens of decisions in rapid succession with minimal guidance. We develop a strong work ethic, many times forged in training and in combat, that civilian employers wish their teams could instill. We have a wealth of desirable traits that Fortune 500 companies spend countless hours and money training their people to have. So how is it that we have such a difficult time earning quality, high-paying jobs? Veterans with Logistics, Administrative, Finance or Communications specialties are transitioning just fine, so why are we different? I find answers in my own story and in the story of my most recent case of a former Infantry Unit Leader and soon-to-be business school graduate.

I left the Marine Corps in July of 2013. I just accepted an offer to work for Johnson & Johnson in an Associate Clinical Support and Sales role for one of their Medical Device companies. I was excited and my employer had complete faith that my military background and performance would be a great fit for them. I relocated to Texas where I picked out or first home in the suburbs of Houston. I went to a well-known, military friendly bank to apply for a VA loan. When I spoke to the loan officer, she looked at me with a great deal of skepticism and risk. Not only did she disagree with my employer that I was a good fit, she offered alternative career guidance for me that are “less risky”, “I served in the military and there’s no comparable skills between your job in the military and your next career. Couldn’t you find a job in security or an armory or policeman? Any place that you could play with guns?” Needless to say, they didn’t earn my business but she opened my eyes for the first time to a common misconception with Infantry Veterans; we don’t have skills required to be successful in a job where you want to pick up a pen (or wrench for that matter) instead of a rifle. Four years later, I’ve been promoted twice in four years and my career has a long runway.

I’m working with a young Infantry Marine Veteran who’s tackled the same issues I faced four years ago.

“When I began my transition out of the military, I noticed that the job opportunities were somewhat discouraging. Most websites advised going into janitorial fields or law enforcement. I felt a little shorted and that the military did not benefit me in any way. Perhaps this is a reason why I decided to commit to college. Now entering my senior year I have learned that this is not true at all. The Marine Corps has in fact set me up for success, even if I did know it during my enlistment.”

Here’s what I’ve learned and hope that EVERY Marine Infantry Veteran will embrace. Use these three skills you already have to take ownership of your story.

1. Cross-Functional Leadership
Civilian companies take a very horizontal approach to team work, which is much similar to what many of us know. If you’re a Small Unit Leader, you have authority over your team but you have to learn to network with the logistician to get you a priority resupply or an interpreter who may help pass along critical information about the locals you’re talking to that builds your situational awareness. You learned how to work with teams that you don’t have rank over. In my career, I collaborate with marketing to host local events, the education team on bringing customers to Key Opinion Leader meetings, and my contracts team to come up with creative solutions that work for my customers. You have these experiences and you need to focus on making sense of them in a way that your interviewer can visualize you using these skills in a new role.

2. Adaptability
After 9/11, A Marine Infantry Battalion is re-trained as a counter-insurgency unit much like the special forces are trained. This is a much more complex mission than what we were created to do, “To locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel his assault by fire and close combat.” In addition to our core mission, we learned how to build trust with people of a different language and culture, work with contractors to build local infrastructure – schools, wells, and roads – and coordinate our own food, logistics, and facilities by air or ground. To a civilian employer, this person knows how to

3. Change Management
How often does the situation on the ground develop? How often did the rules of engagement change in a more restrictive and complicated way, forcing you to adapt your strategy to fit the new environment? The same concept applies to blue and white-collar businesses. As cultures change, teams need good change managers – leaders who are comfortable adapting to the new policy or type of customer – and lead the team to success.

Bottom line; you have the skills required to be successful in any career path that you invest in. Managing your story is critical to showing civilian employers that you DO have the skills they’re looking for. Of course you have to be trained on how to perform your civilian job. But with a little work and education, you have the ability to out-perform your peers and earn a long-term career that pays well, has great benefits, and doesn’t restrict you to playing with guns. If you’ve experienced any difficulty transitioning or are going through it now, contact us at info@03xxfoundation.org and let our team of expert volunteers empower you to succeed.

Veterans Florida is a non-profit corporation created by the State of Florida to help veterans fully transition to civilian life in the Sunshine State. They connect veterans to employers, grant funds to employers to hire and train veterans, and educate veterans on how to open their own businesses in Florida. We’re proud to work hand in hand with this group to ensure you are gainfully employed.

Live. Work. Learn. It really is that basic. These are the fundamental tasks that every veteran transitioning from military to civilian life faces. So, why then is it so difficult to find solutions to them?

Well, it’s not. Not any more at least. Veterans Florida exists not only to help you navigate known obstacles but also to make you aware of and successfully deal with things you might not have considered. Need help writing a relevant resume? Veterans Florida has got your back. What about finding the right realtor, someone who knows how to handle the VA Loan like a pro? Or pinning down the best veteran-friendly school? Veterans Florida has you covered there too.

Veterans Florida is for veterans, by veterans. We want to make your move to Florida seamless and we won’t rest until we have. Our site is chock full of information—videos, articles and other resources, all aimed at keeping you in-the-know and up-to-date. From providing personalized job services that pair you with the perfect career to helping businesses hire and train you, we do what it takes to help you find your way in Florida.

The Sunshine State is calling and with Veterans Florida on your side, it’s time to answer.

For more information, please contact 03XX or go directly to their website here.

This past weekend, the 03XX Foundation was invited to attend a “golf tournament”. Steve Hotz, a retired 82nd Airborne bubba and his wife, Amy, invited us out to the The Caddy Shack Golf Tournament at a hunting club where they’re members. This wasn’t just an ordinary golf tournament – unless you typically mix up a round of golf with some high power weaponry. For those present, it was a chance to partici-pate in a new sporting and fundraising concept and also the perfect melding of patriotic sports enthusi-asts, veterans of various branches, and 12 active duty Marines from Quantico. Gratefully, I was able to attend; finally able to meet our Case Management Director, Chris Marzoni, for the first time. Heath Sil-cott, a brother from 2/2 who served with me in the invasion of Iraq, brought his wife. I hadn’t seen Heath in a decade or more. What better place to see him again than a venue like this!

The club is a large swath of Virginia countryside located in Amherst County, Virginia. Nestled in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s peaceful, serene, and a great place to hide for a while. It’s the perfect environment for a large group of various skillsets to come together in common interest. Tony Metz, a wily ole’ leatherneck from the 70’s era, holds this 3,000 acre lease where his club, The Future Sportsmen of Virginia, manage the property and host various events. Tony has been an ardent supporter of the 03XX Foundation since being introduced by Steve a couple years back, and he loves to share the camp with everyone he can. We were about to have one hell of a time slinging lead with Marines from various infantry units, cooking and eating wild fare, and getting back to our primal roots. It felt good to be back in the woods.

On Saturday, everyone arrived and we began the course. The rimfire (Front 9) section was challenging in it’s own way, however, the long range course (Back 9) seemed to be everyones kryptonite. We paired everyone into teams of two and, naturally, the Marines placed in every winning team. 1st Place was taken by a young sergeant who went by the name of Patch Adams. Oddly enough, one of my guys Erik Fredrickson (Freddy) from 2/2 was his squad leader in Afghanistan. You tend to forget how small the Corps is until you find out little things like that. We broke for lunch, finished up the course, and went back to the camp to relax for a bit. Later that evening, after dinner, some of the guys went out to look for coyotes, while others sat around the campfire laughing and talking.

The weekend was a huge success. We were able to tell our story to active duty Marines prior to EAS, which is incredibly important to their transition out of the Corps. Better yet, we had a great time doing it. The camaraderie was amazing. We had the time of our life with fantastic people, we trained, and ate some kick ass food. It was therapeutic being out in the woods and getting primal with the boys and girls. In December, we’re being hosted for all veteran/military hunt on club property. I’m advising that if you’re reading this, you will want to be at the next one. This was an event for the books – only to be topped by the official tournament and hunt coming soon.

S/F,

GC

Geoff and Laura with their children Logan, Rowan, and Harlow – Disney World ’16

There are few greater titles earned by a man than Marine and Father.
For those Americans who are both fathers and Marines, we reflect today on where those responsibilities intersect.  For many of us, the duties of being a Marine and the responsibilities of being a father are often driven by the same motivation–love of others.  At his core, a father supports his family through his presence and his sacrifice. He works for them with his career, he offers them his love and compassion, he guides them, he celebrates with them, and he protects them from harm. To him, this definition applies to both his family and his country. He gives of himself wholeheartedly without asking for anything in return; this is the same as the generations of fathers who came before us and those who came before them.
Sometimes, the duty to serve family can overlap with a man’s duty to serve his country. Each responsibility is individually challenging alone, but to thrive at both requires something greater.
 Lcpl Heath, Left center, Ramadi ’06
Marines like Geoff Heath, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps, are among those who know this challenge well.
Geoff left his job working for the Miami Dade Medical Examiner’s office to pursue his calling as a Grunt. Geoff earned the title Marine at Parris Island in 2003 and served on three combat deployments; with Kilo 3/7 to Ramadi, Iraq (2005 and 2006) and then with Charlie 1/6 in Afghanistan (2010), where he fought in close combat with the Insurgency. While conducting a dismounted patrol during the infamous Operation Moshtarak – the battle to clear the Taliban stronghold of Marjah – his patrol was targeted by a homemade Improvised Explosive Device. His platoon Corpsman and he were just 15 feet from the blast, he was wounded, and later diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.
His children, Logan and Rowan, were ages four and one at the time.
At this point in his life, Geoff medically retired and he faced the challenges of returning to a civilian carer and full time Fatherhood.
As a returned veteran running a small business, Geoff devotes every day to building strong bonds with his children.  He said he is, “helping to mold and mentor their character to prepare them for life.” The kids take after their father; they are remarkably resilient. Logan loves swimming and shooting. Rowan, gifted with athleticism and strength, has a knack for Tae Kwon Do and muscling her dad through the pool in a mock rescue drill. Harlow loves to dance, help dad plow the fields for the family’s now second business venture – and swim. They inherited their father’s amphibious genes.

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, Operation Finally Home – Estero, Fl ’16

More recently, the Heaths were the recipients of a new, mortgage-free home from Operation Finally Home. They currently reside in Estero, Florida where they continue to spend plenty of time together. Geoff donates his free time to the 03XX Foundation helping other Marines with service-connected disabilities navigate the VA claims process.
This Father’s Day, we celebrate and honor the men who’ve served two masters. Both roles are a rite of passage – titles that you earn and keep for life. If you are yourself a veteran father; we salute you. If you have a veteran father, be sure to thank them today for standing on a wall one moment and coming home to splash in the pool with you the next.
Happy Father’s Day,
     03XX Foundation

Gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery

For many Americans Memorial Day is just an informal start to the summer season. It is an opportunity to take the day off of work and have a barbecue with friends and family. We appreciate our American traditions and are grateful for a day of relaxation and reflection. For Marines, there is no confusion about the purpose of Memorial Day. We observe Memorial Day to remember our dead. To honor their memory.

 

An old and honorable brotherhood of warriors

 

We are an old and honorable brotherhood of warriors, having sworn an oath to defend our country, our people, and our way of life. That oath is sacred, and we fulfill that oath not as individuals, but as a unit and as a team. Every Marine has pledged to defend his fellow Marine and citizen with his own life if necessary. We know that when we fall, be it on the battlefield or not, we will never be forgotten by our brothers.

Marines are often the first to answer the call to fight in our nation’s wars and conflicts and are often the first to fall in combat. No one wants to die in combat, but as Marines we accept that risk. To fall during combat is to give our lives for something greater than ourselves. It’s a risk we gladly accept. We do not fear death.

 

Remember the Fallen

 

This particular Memorial Day we’d like to remember another group of fallen Marines whose memories remain with us forever; our brothers lost to suicide. It’s no secret the number is much higher than the 22 suicides/day estimated by the Veterans Administration. As a community we need to support our brothers in their struggles no matter what the severity. Our promise is one of eternal fidelity. When one of our brothers feels like he is alone and on his own; we as a community haven’t lived up to that promise.

 

You are not forgotten. You are not alone.

 

As we remember our heroic comrades who were killed in battle, let us honor their memory by keeping our promise to our brothers who are still here.

 

To our brothers we say: You are not forgotten. You are not alone.

 

Semper Fidelis,

Team 03XX

Marines laying the remains of WW2 Marine Raiders to rest in Arlington.

Marines laying the remains of WW2 Marine Raiders to rest in Arlington.

Our Renewed Mission Statement

“The 03XX Foundation’s purpose is to keep the eternal promise of Fidelity to our brothers in the infantry, to our Corps and to our country; by strengthening the bonds of friendship and camaraderie; by honoring our history, traditions and worthy dead; and materially and spiritually assisting our brothers in arms and their families.”

The Iwo Jima Memorial at the U.S. Marine War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Iwo Jima Memorial at the U.S. Marine War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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Trans Pecos Ultra Marathon

I’ve read about the ultra marathon community and watched a documentary on the annual Badwater 135 run in Death Valley. The sheer gnarliness of what was happening on TV made my knees ache and my back start to spasm. Not to mention a slight pucker factor watching these seemingly super human individuals push themselves beyond the normal boundaries of the human body.

Some people thrive on this torture. My former squad mate from 2/2, Thomas Karlick, found solace in running while trying to battle his own post-combat demons. After a second tour to Iraq, he had a tough time transitioning out of the Marines; ultra marathon running became his way to focus on something other than the past and to continue a mission. After his 170 mile self-supported ultra marathon race for the Travis Manion Foundation in 2015, I was intrigued at the preparation taken to run these races. We talked about teaming up for an ultra marathon on behalf of the 03XX Foundation which I happened to know very well.

THE PITCH

Thomas called me in July. I could hear the excitement in his voice. “I’m running the Trans Pecos Ultra Marathon, here’s the link, check it out and tell me what you think; I want to run this on behalf of the Foundation.”

After looking at the web-site, race parameters, and the terrain I closed the browser. I couldn’t help to think “this was going to be epic.”

Alpine Texas and the Big Bend region of the great state of Texas can only be described as magnificent austerity. Every plant, animal, and blade of grass in this region wants to stick you, poison you, or bite you. Different from any other desert environment I’ve ever seen, the region was simply incredible. The mountain ridges ran as far as the eye could see and the sunsets were a sight to behold. The region is rugged, inhospitable, and downright brutal.

PREPARATIONS

Thomas started training and the crew started our preparations right away. We arranged the logistics for the race and scheduled a radio spot on the Foundation CFO’s radio show. A donation page was drafted and built for the web-site, and we started promoting for donations. By the time October had arrived, we had secured sponsorships, 03 Designs & Apparel had arranged the jerseys, and we were ready to depart. The Jeep was packed for the 14 hour drive from Carthage Missouri to El Paso Texas. I picked up Ryan Paulk, our movie guru with the equipment (another 2/2 Marine) and the most important cargo, my team mate Thomas, rounding out the 2/2 trifecta.

Finally, the adventure began – three 2/2 Marines stuffed into a Jeep for four hours with essential race, survival, and film equipment, heading to Alpine, Texas. Not one of us had any idea what awaited.

Two days before the official race started we had a mandatory meeting for all volunteers. We covered the dangers of the area, emergency procedures, the communications plan, and relevant information needed to survive 10 days off-grid in the Chihuahuan desert.

THE RACE

The day before the race, we convoyed to Presideo, Texas, the last oasis of civilization before Big Bend State Park. We refueled vehicles and gas cans, then began the 1.5 hour trip to the starting line. I spoke with a guy in the bathroom who had asked what we were doing. After I explained what was going on, we realized we were from the same town in Missouri – thank you, Kevin Bacon.

Each day started early and checkpoint teams were typically dispatched by 7 a.m. Each team had a check point, while some had multiple. After the last runner passed each checkpoint, teams radioed forward to the next check point, pack up, and head back to camp, or to the next check point. Rinse and repeat. The runners would cross the starting line shortly after we did.

The first four days were marathon distance. The fifth day was 56 miles, with a 5K to wrap up the event. Thomas had an hour lead on the first day as the Chan brothers had gotten lost. They diligently regained the time over the course of the event. Eventually Paul Chan would cross the finish first, four minutes behind the leader. Thomas crossed the finish line after Paul, maintaining the lead, and a first place finish by four minutes. Eric Chan came in third, followed by Ann and Vaughn, an older (over 50) English couple who were incredibly impressive. I thought Vaughn was in trouble at a couple of my checkpoints but he gutted it out and finished strong. The other participants eventually made it to the finish and the race was complete. The last leg was a 5K on the very last day. Victory!

MAKING IT HAPPEN

The volunteers were an integral part of the race. They work tirelessly to ensure the participants are safe, checkpoints are running smoothly, and set up base camp every day. These are the unsung heroes responsible for reporting casualties, getting to the next check points, making sure the participants have what they need, and relay important information to leadership in order to ensure everything goes smoothly.

The ultra marathon racing community is one to emulate. I imagined participants as hyper-competitive cut throats looking to augment their love for adventure and the unknown with a level of masochism most label as insanity. This stereotype, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. I met some of the coolest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, willing to do just about anything to help their fellow participant or volunteer. As a result, this was a life-changing trip for all involved, including those who started the race (13) and went on to finish (9).

SPECIAL THANKS

For those of you whom I had the pleasure of working with, I consider you a lifelong friend. Thomas, thank you for making this an experience of a lifetime and including us on this journey. Ryan, thank you for your time and effort in making this amazing documentary. Chris Hererra, thank you for including the Foundation and working so closely with us. To our donors–this would have never happened to the degree it did without you–you are forever in our thoughts. To those participants who didn’t finish the race, you were an inspiration more than you’ll ever know. Deciding to participate in such an event is nothing less than impressive. Making it as far as you did takes fortitude and courage most people don’t possess. You’re a reminder of how grueling the Trans-Pecos is and how a person can push himself to do great things if they truly want it.

We hope this documentary breathes new life into someone who thinks they CAN’T. This race was the perfect illustration of how you CAN.

We’re all capable of doing so much more than we think we can. The Other Side of Possible was exactly that. The documented journey of one Marine racing to defeat his demons and proving himself a victor, not a victim.

Our hope is for you to watch this movie and decide to do that “something” you’ve always wanted to do, but never thought possible. If you believe you can, you will.

Semper Fidelis,

GC

Arriving at the airport in Charleston, SC, I am greeted by a Marine in his service uniform. Alongside a group of ten or so other young men, we wait at the gate for a few other recruits to land. From there the Marine walks us single file to the bathroom, or head. He stands us in front of the sink and tells us to empty all contraband from our pockets, such as cigarettes, lighters, and knives. He collects them all and takes us through a maze of hallways in the bowels of the airport. We arrive to a room where we are instructed to sit down and lunch was passed out “bag nasties”. After we eat we are told to put our heads on the table and sleep. I was not sure what to expect as my recruiter only told me about island life, not the details of the journey to get to the island. None of us are allowed to look up. Every thirty minutes or so new recruits enter the room and are ordered to do the same, thus beginning our thirteen weeks of having no control.

Shortly after midnight everyone has arrived at the airport and they file us out to an unmarked white shuttle bus. The interior of the bus is like that of being shut in a closet or unlit basement. The windows seem to have two layers of limousine tint on them, shielding our view outward. We approach the main gate to Parris Island. The driver stops the bus and speaks with the guard, or sentry. After pulling through, we are then stopped in front of a building and as the bus door glides open, a drill instructor boards the bus and tells us all to sit up straight. He has a raspy, deep, and commanding voice, and welcomes us to the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. He screams, “Get off my bus. Get off my bus NOW and on my yellow footprints.”

The famous yellow footprints at Parris Island, South Carolina.

The famous yellow footprints at Parris Island, South Carolina.

It’s hard to believe that 21 years ago today, August 8, 1994, I boarded that flight out of Jackson, Mississippi headed for Charleston, South Carolina and was then off to Parris Island. I grew up an Army brat in Giessen, Germany (The Rock) or Fort Stewart, Georgia and when my parents separated I was eight years old. That day marked the moment I knew that I wanted to prove to my father that I could be tougher than him. I was angry at him for divorcing my mother and leaving our family and forcing us to grow up in rural Mississippi in a single wide trailer. Growing up in Brandon, Mississippi with a sister three years my senior and a single mother who worked three jobs at times to give us the best she could, seemed unbearable. We didn’t have much growing up, but my mother did her best to teach us morals, ethics, and how to be successful in life.

Ice cream with my mother at the ice skating rink near the Zugspitze, Austria.

Ice cream with my mother at the ice skating rink near the Zugspitze, Austria.

At the age of 15, I obtained my driver’s license, purchased my first car, and secured my first job flipping burgers at a local Wendy’s. I signed up for Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at the start of my freshman year of high school and after four years was the JROTC Battalion Sergeant Major. By the age of 17 I was working at Exxon with computers, networking, marketing, and sales through the local community college (Hinds Community College) and on-the-job training. None of this really mattered me then because the only thing I wanted to be was a Marine and to show my father I was more of a man than he ever was. All the years later I was still bitter. I never took my SATs nor thought about going to college. I was a below-average C-student in high school and cared more about women than my education at the time. But the woman who mattered most stood beside me in the recruiting station when I was 17 years old and helped me realize my dream towards becoming a United States Marine – my mother.

Parris Island graduation photo October 1994

Parris Island graduation photo October 1994

My three months in 1st Recruit Training Battalion, Bravo Company, Platoon 1014 were a blur as was my time in the Fleet Marine Force. It’s hard to remember it all but I remember the good times and cherish the bad times. It’s those bad times that have helped me survive in the civilian world realizing things could always be worse and I have survived worse situations. When things get bad I remember nights on rail watch mid-February cruising in the Adriatic off the cost of Bosnia during Operation Joint Endeavor with below zero temperatures or the 115 degree days in Africa with 100% humidity listening to AK47 rounds hitting sandbags exploding sand everywhere during Operation Assured Response and Operation Quick Response.

On post atop of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia - Africa April 1996

On post atop of the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia – Africa April 1996

Two weeks before graduating boot camp we had just returned from Basic Warrior Training (BWT). We were in the head cleaning our gas masks when I heard “Recruit Bowles, report to Senior Drill Instructor Sergeant Smith, recruit”. I shouted “Aye Aye Recruits” and beat feet to the Drill Instructor’s Hut. I slapped the hatch 3 times and shouted “Recruit Bowles reporting as ordered Sir!”. Upon entering the Drill Instructor’s Hut ALL of my Drill Instructors were standing behind the desk and my SDI had the phone in his hand. He said “Your father is on the phone for you recruit”. My heart sank. I knew I would pay for this. I had developed a phone relationship with my father after their divorce and saw him every few years for a couple of days. I took the phone from Sergeant Smith and stood at attention and spoke “Sir, this is recruit Bowles, sir.”. My father, then Army Sergeant Major Bowles, was on the other end of the phone and I knew he was laughing on the inside. He asked questions like how was I doing, when will I graduate, etc. The entire time I’m standing at attention in front of my 4 Drill Instructors and speaking in the third person to my father on the phone.

As the call concluded I handed the phone back to my SDI and the heavy took me to the pit for a good hour of “fun”. Apparently my father had called the Parris Island Base Sergeant Major and was passed all the way down to my Series Commander and then into the SDI’s hut. I was never a great runner at 6’4” tall and 200 pounds. I was more of a “Give me as much weight as you want and let’s go hiking “humping”. During the final physical fitness test (PFT) 3 mile run the Series Commander ran up next to me and said “I wonder what Sergeant Major Bowles would think of his baby boy back here at the back of the pack”. To which I gasped to respond “Aye Aye Sir” and took off. That was the fasted PFT I ever ran during my time in the Marine Corps. I finished just shy of 22:00 to do the 3 miles.

The values instilled in me during my time at Parris Island, and my time in the FMF, stick with me to this day. JJDIDTIEBUCKLE is what I live my life by and I am thankful for each and every opportunity I had serving my country. After my time in, I reflected on that thought I had before joining of “Showing my father I’m harder than he is”. I learned a tough lesson. The World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam Era veterans were hard as nails. My father retired in the mid-nineties with 30 years of faithful service, two tours in Vietnam, and a DD214 full of awards. It wasn’t truly about me being better or tougher than him. It was about me making him proud at the end of the day and earning his respect as a man and love as his son. He is retired now and resides in the desert in Nevada and we talk regularly via phone/email and see each other each year.

It’s hard to believe it’s been so long since I stood in those footprints but the values/lessons have served me well to the point where I have a loving wife of 14 years, 4 beautiful children, and a career which affords me the opportunity to have time/skills/network to give back to my fellow Marine Infantrymen, and Corpsmen, via the 03XX Foundation, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

Family vacation at Universal Studios, Orlando June 2015

Family vacation at Universal Studios, Orlando June 2015

Curtis was born in 1984 and grew up near Arlington, Virginia. He grew in a military family and had an appreciation and interest in military service from a young age. Curtis originally joined the Marine Corps with the intention of working as an aviation crew chief but then switched to the infantry occupation field.

After Parris Island and training at Camp Geiger, earning the 0311 MOS, Curtis joined Kilo 3/6 in 2003. Curtis first deployed to Afghanistan, operating in Asadabad and Gardaz, in 2004. Upon his return, he was selected to join Scout/Sniper Platoon, working as a radio operator, and deployed to Al Qaim, Iraq. Curtis again returned to Kilo Company, this time as a squad leader. He deployed near Husaybah, Iraq for a final deployment as a line platoon squad leader.

Curtis-Romano-DoingWork

Much like all Marines, Curtis’ aspirations changed over time and were molded by his experiences as an infantryman. He initially intended to continue to serve, earn a commission and retire. As time went on, Curtis had other ideas. During his time in sniper platoon, he found himself growing more and more interested in entrepreneurship and owning his own business. With only two week left remaining on his contract, he elected to leave the Marine Corps and enter private military contracting. Curtis returned to Afghanistan, working for Blackwater and other PMCs. He operated as a member of personal security teams and trained and supervised Afghans in fixed site security.

Curtis’ work as a contractor had a clearly defined goal, raising capital to start his own business. Over the years he had developed an interest in functional fitness and was particularly interested in Crossfit. Following his career in security contracting, Curtis’ started his entrepreneurial journey. Crossfit Axon, in Charlotte, NC opened for business in June of 2014. Curtis now enjoys spending time with his family, competing in functional fitness teams sports leagues, continuing his education and acquiring addition certifications in his professional and expanding his business.

Curtis-Romano-DoingWork2

The life of an infantryman can mold a person’s mindset for the rest of their life, greatly increasing their success following active duty. Serving as a grunt teaches valuable skills, while they may not be directly transferable to many civilian job fields, are still applicable in the private sector. Curtis credits much of his success to the mental toughness and problem solving skills that he developed as a Marine NCO. He is no stranger to hardship and developed his leadership skills on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Curtis-Romano-Family

Curtis emphasizes the transition to civilian life is easier with a defined goal, or at least a direction. Things are not just going to “work out” themselves and Marines should find their passion and pursue a career that relates to that interest. He points out that many Marines head home following their service, a place of natural comfort and familiarity. Curtis explains that this isn’t always the best course of action for job seekers and that there are opportunities all over the country, and the world, that may be seized by those willing to relocate.

GySgt Kenny Goss enlisted in the United States Marine Corps from Orange, Texas and entered recruit training at MCRD San Diego on July 14, 1981. A young Kenny Goss became interested in military service at an early age, inspired by his father’s service in the US Army during the late 1950s. Following recruit training, PFC Goss attended the Construction Drafting School, Defense Mapping School, at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. While at HQ Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Kenny reconsidered his occupation decision and submitted a request to become an infantryman. His request was approved one year after his obligated time on station was complete. He transferred to G 2/8 in January of 1983 for duty as an infantry rifleman (0311).

From October of 1983 to May of 1984, 2/8 participated in a historic deployment. First seeing combat during the invasion of Grenada, then in Beirut, Lebanon. Gunny Goss was a sergeant squad leader at the time and Golf acted as the track company during Operation Urgent Fury for the battalion landing team. Once Golf landed, they were tasked with assisting in the extraction of Governor-General Paul Scoon, his family and staff, and the Navy SEALS out of the Governor-General’s mansion. They were next tasked with securing Fort Frederick, which they seized unopposed by the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA). During site exploitation of the fort, Gunny Goss’ squad located a large cache of communist weapons and documents. After six days on the island, G 2/8 once again boarded the USS Manitowoc and landed, in conjunction with F 2/8, on the adjacent island of Carriacou. The Marines quickly secured the island, and captured several groups of PRA soldiers. Following the seizure of Carriacou, Gunny Goss and 2/8 once again boarded ship and set sail for Beirut, Lebanon.

During operations in Lebanon, Gunny Goss recalls experiencing intense fighting with Shiite militiamen. The M203 grenade launcher was employed with great affect to reduce enemy positions, as well as the use of Marine M60 Patton main battle tank, which were attached to the rifle platoon. In one instance, an M60 actually had to be resupplied with 105mm rounds during the engagement, firing a total of 33 rounds. During the course of the deployment, nine Marines from Golf 2/8 were killed and several were injured.

Following his initial tour with 2/8, Gunny Goss went on to serve in a variety of billets and units. Gunny Goss served as a drill instructor at Parris Island. He served in Charlie 1/1, deploying on two WESTPACs; first as a squad leader, then as a platoon sergeant. Gunny Goss then served on the Inspector-Instructor staff for Weapons Co. 1/23.

In 1993, Gunny Goss was assigned to Fox 2/2 where he again served overseas in two separate hostile environments. In 1994, Fox 2/2 participated in Operation Support/Uphold Democracy in Haiti. Gunny Goss recalls confusion during the planning phase; as to whether or not this was an offensive operation or a peace keeping and humanitarian operation. Early in the mission, local police instigated a fire fight with Marines, leading to numerous police officers being killed. In 1996, Fox 2/2 deployed to the Mediterranean aboard ship. During the course of the deployment, the US embassy in Liberia came under attack. Fox 2/2, with Gunny Goss as 2nd platoon sergeant, conducted a heloborne insert and established a defensive position around the embassy.

Following his years with 2/2, Gunnery Sergeant Goss went on to Inspector-Instructor duty in Louisiana, where he retired in 2001. He has since worked for the US Postal Service in Louisiana and North Carolina.

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