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Patriotic Article

By USMC LCpl. Jeff Drew

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A Figurehead In Small Unit Leadership
(October 3, 2010)

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FORT A.P. HILL, Va. (MCN - 9/29/2010) — “All you can do is take life by the wheel and steer toward the enemy,” Lance Cpl. Ryan A. McCauley said confidently as he took a knee. With one deployment under his belt, the 23-year old is gearing up for his second trip to Afghanistan, ready to take on all obstacles in his way.
Growing up in the streets of Pittsburgh, McCauley wanted more out of life. His passion for greatness motivated him to develop his work ethic and, like every child, he had aspirations of being a super hero, a valiant figure in the neighborhood that fought crime and made the community a better place.

“I lived in a really good area growing up; I really enjoyed my childhood,” he said with a look that seemed to take him back to his younger days. “I always wanted to grow up and be someone heroic. A lot of my friends were police officers. I thought that was very admirable of them, so I asked myself, ‘what I can do to contribute to my community?'”

McCauley wanted to challenge himself to the fullest and take the
  FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - Lance Cpl. Ryan A. McCauley kneels with weapon ready, flanked by members of his team at range 6N, here, on Sept. 17, 2010. As a team leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, McCauley takes the initiative to keep his Marines motivated by testing their knowledge and discipline.
FORT A.P. HILL, Va. - Lance Cpl. Ryan A. McCauley kneels with weapon ready, flanked by members of his team at range 6N, here, on Sept. 17, 2010. As a team leader with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, McCauley takes the initiative to keep his Marines motivated by testing their knowledge and discipline.
fight to the enemy. He began training at an early age by wrestling and playing football throughout high school.
“My cousin was in the Marine Corps back in 2005. He went oversees to Iraq and I was like wow, I'm going to buckle up and go for a ride too. My family is over there fighting, so I'm going too.”

McCauley took a few years to study criminal justice at a local community college, but knew he was being called for a higher purpose. In 2007, at 20 years old, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

His initial reaction to boot camp was one of silent realization. Having seen movies like “Full Metal Jacket” to help prepare for the experience, he recognized that just how physically and mentally demanding this new life would be. He quickly held a new appreciation for the men and women who already held the title of United States Marine.

After graduating boot camp, he went on to get training as a machine gunner and was immediately taken aback by the amount of knowledge needed to be successful.

“I remember going to school to become a machine gunner, I thought it was pretty cool,” he said with a slight smile. “Little did I know how much information there was about machine guns. It is imperative that Marines know their knowledge. Anytime on the battlefield you could freeze up. The more repetition there is; the more you can develop the skill. It is crucial that you know your job and how to execute the mission.”

It is this proactive attitude, repetitive nature, and knowledge of the job field that has garnered him the respect of his junior Marines and earned him the title of a small unit leader.

“It was all because of the Marines who trained me,” he said modestly. “They said to me, “you need to understand the nomenclature of a machine gun because if something goes down, you need to know what's wrong with it so you can repair it and suppress the enemy.”

It is this exact mentality that possibly saved his life last year while in Afghanistan. While part of a five-man reconnaissance patrol down in a river valley, he was ambushed and had to rely on his training to get himself, and the Marines with him, out alive.

“We don't know how many there were,” he said, drifting back into his memories. “There could have been three there could have been 30. We just fought our way out. We had support by fire on the ridgeline about 100 yards back when we got the call to push back. All of a sudden my gut feeling told me to turn around. When I did, I saw one of my good buddies pinned down under fire. I had a squad automatic weapon, so I ran back there, dropped to a knee and just suppressed the fire and he got out of there. We all got out of there safe that day. That's one of those stories I'll never forget for the rest of my life.”

Having accompanied McCauley to Afghanistan and presently acting as his section leader, Sgt. Robb M. Wilges can attest to McCauley's leadership abilities.

“He has a lot of motivation and is a good team leader; he is focused and knowledgeable of his job,” Wilges said.

McCauley is now charged with using his wealth of experience to teach the four Marines under his care the importance and seriousness of their job.

“This is for real now; take what you know and use it,” he said. “Learn as much as you can about your occupation and how it can benefit someone else's job. Ask as many questions as you can. If you ever question yourself then go for it, the worst thing that could happen is you end up being wrong and you learn from it.”

Preparing for his second deployment to Afghanistan with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; McCauley leaves his junior Marines with his thoughts on becoming a good leader.

“Make mistakes as a junior Marine and learn from them,” he said. “Have a good attitude and the ability to improvise, that, in my opinion, is what makes a good leader.”
Article and photo by LCpl. Jeff Drew
2nd Marine Division
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Marine Corps News

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