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Former Marines help MEU make mission

7 Dec 2002 | Staff Sgt. Bryan P. Reed 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Two Marines currently serving in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) share a unique aspect to their service--neither is enlisted nor commissioned. They served as active duty enlisted members of the Marine Corps and got out to find themselves now serving our Corps in a new capacity, as civilian contractors.  

Those Marines are Rich M. Torres, who works in support of the Asset Tracking Logistic Supply System (ATLASS II Plus) as an ATLASS fleet support contractor for the MEU, and Dave M. David, field representative for the Oshkosh truck corporation, who works with MEU Service Support Group 24 in support of the new Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR) for both the MSSG and Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

Both indicate that their jobs as enlisted Marines helped to prepare them for the jobs they have today.

"What I do now goes basically hand in hand with what I did when I was in the Marine Corps as an active duty service member," says Torres, formerly an active duty corporal in the Marine Corps and supply clerk with 2nd Maintenance Bn., Camp Lejeune, NC., later promoted to sergeant in the inactive reserves.

"We were one of the first units to get ATLASS II Plus," said Torres. "Back when I was enlisted I only worked the supply aspects of the application, and that is what I did at first when I came back aboard as a civilian contractor."

"Now I cover supply, maintenance and system administration, although the main reason I am out here is to help with the system administration of ATLASS II Plus, since there is no Military Occupational Specialty for that aspect of the system in the Marine Corps, " Torres continued. "The first time the Marine Corps deployed with ATLASS they had one civilian contractor for each of the three areas--now they deploy with one man that handles all three aspects," added Torres.  

Another former Marine, David M. David had a longer "break in service," but still was able to snap right into his civilian billet. "I am doing about the same as I did in the Marine Corps. I'm teaching and training Marines, and handling warranty issues," said David.

David, formerly an active duty master sergeant and motor transport maintenance chief said of his former rank," I prefer to be called TOP." He went on to say more about how similar the job he performs now is to the job he performed for the Marine Corps during his time as a motor transport maintenance chief.

"A maintenance chief does about the same but doesn't have to call as many civilian companies as a rule... I teach and train the Marines on the new MTVR on both the maintenance and operator side. I work any warranty problems with the MTVR through the manufacturer. I ensure all warranty work is done within the standards of the Marine Corps and the training manuals," added David.

Each Marine had their own reasons for ending their time as active duty service members.

"The main reason I got out is because they wouldn't give me an accompanied tour to Okinawa," said Torres. "I told them I would re-enlist if they could give me an accompanied tour in Okinawa and they said they couldn't guarantee that to a Corporal...When I was in the Marine Corps I only went to Norway for a month and a half. It's kind of ironic that I got out of the Marine Corps because I didn't want to go to Okinawa for a year unaccompanied, but now here I am out on a float with the 24th MEU, and just got done with a seven month float with the 26th MEU from 20 September 2001 to 18 April 2002." said Torres.

Torres feels that getting out when he did has helped him in the job he now performs. "I think one of my assets is that I got out of the Marine Corps in the corporal/sergeant range.  It is the lance corporals, corporals and sergeants that I work with the most on a day-to-day basis and I think it helps me relate to them better. I also have to work with and be professional with the staff and officers as well, and of course the Marine Corps trained me to be professional and tactful in this regard. I also carry a GS12 rating, so I get treated as a captain/major.  I have the best of both worlds," continued Torres.

David cited his reason for leaving active duty service as well. "I always said that I wouldn't hold up the promotion system. Let's face it--all the PT was catching up. So, when I had my two years time in grade, I retired," said David.

Both have a similar feeling about their return to service in the Corps. Torres enjoys teaching and training Non Commissioned Officers how to be proficient at doing their job within ATLASS II Plus, and David feels the same way about working with motor transport Marines.

"I missed teaching the young Marines. It makes me feel good when I can walk someone through a problem or help them understand how a system works," says David.

Another thing David misses is the time off that the Marine Corps affords its active duty service members. "That's quality time for the family. I don't get any (four-day weekends) without taking vacation time. So all the time off is the most missed," he said.

Torres went straight from being an active duty Marine to performing the job he performs now. "I had this job lined up 3 months prior to getting out and walked right into it after having a nice (long weekend) from my time as an enlisted Marine, so I never really had a break or time to miss the good thing of the Marine Corps," says Torres. "I'm not really missing the thing I would miss most about being an enlisted Marine, because in the job that I do I still get to be around the camaraderie of the Marine Corps every day," he added. "One of the reasons I really enjoy this job is because I love the Marine Corps. I love being around the camaraderie, only now I'm just not necessarily wearing the uniform," he continued.

The two Marines don't quite miss everything about being on active duty. "What I miss the least is duty--barracks duty, standing watch, having a 24-hour no-sleeping post. I also enjoy having a goatee as well which, of course, an enlisted Marine is not allowed to have," said Torres. The thing Mr. David misses the least is running on cold mornings. "It was okay when you're less than 40, but something hits you after you get to that 20 year mark," he said.

About his change in job description, Torres confesses, "I have urges to act in the role of my former rank all of the time. Everyone on our team experiences it, concerning job related issues though. When I teach a Marine how to do something I definitely have to brief their immediate supervisor what was taught because it is the job of the Marine's immediate supervisor to hold their Marines accountable for performing as taught and not mine. At times, when I see a Marine that is failing to perform as instructed I do feel an urge to be the one to correct him myself, but I don't. It's not my job to get confrontational with the Marines I teach, that's a job for their chain of command. The urge to be the one to aggressively correct the Marines I teach occurs less and less as time goes by and the Marines become more locked on. The more I work with them the better they seem to do, and the better they do the more I can back off of them."

Torres's feelings are not unique. David admits that since he's been back working with Marines he has felt, at times, a desire to act as "Top" David every now and again. With regards to this, "Once a Marine always a Marine," says David. Concerning whether or not he gives into the urge or bites it back he claims to do both, depending on the situation, but he says that he always informs the Staff NCO in charge and lots of times he just has to walk away. "You have to remember, I retired five years ago, I have had to learn how to adjust to the way civilians are and sometimes it takes a lot of cheek biting," David says.

As with most Marines here with the 24th MEU, being away from home and family is not always easy. It's a feeling that both David and Torres have to cope with from time to time. "Any separation from family is hard no matter how many times you do it or how long ago it has been. You take each day one at a time, keep a positive mental attitude and talk everyone and learn something about them," says David.

"I do what everyone else does. I e-mail my wife daily and call her on the phone as much as possible. We're all in the same situation out here, all away from friends and family so we all pick up on the Marine family," says Torres.

In addition to the "Marine family," Torres and David also receive a little support from home as well. "My wife is mostly my biggest support, but I get random messages from other family members too. My wife's grandmother keeps a candle burning for me at her church. They're basically all just waiting for me," says Torres.

David, speaking of the support he receives from home, mentions his wife of 24 years and two sons. "(They support me through) the wonderful world of e-mail. I try to send at least one a day and they do the same. Photos help, especially of our first grand-daughter who was only one month old when we shipped out."

David and Mr. Torres were both very much prepared to fall on their feet upon leaving active duty service. To first term Marines thinking about getting out Torres offers the following words of caution. "I tell a lot of first term Marines who are thinking of getting out to be aware of the money situation. In spite of getting a $15,000 pay raise I wound up with the same amount of money in my pocket, after all similar bills were paid, because now I have to cover things, out of my own pocket that, the Marine Corps used to cover."

Torres and David, two Marines neither enlisted nor commissioned, have returned to Corps as civilian contractors, giving back to the Corps some of the indispensable expertise and professionalism they learned in the Corps.