MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE BARSTOW, Calif. - Growing up in Lewiston, Idaho, a small town of about 40,000 people, Sgt. Jacey Marks always knew he wanted to be a warrior. His family, made up largely of sailors and naval traditions, always supported the military.
Marks, who was raised alongside his two sisters, held the image of the Marine Corps as being a sort of rite of passage into manhood.
And thus, in June 2004, he began a journey unlike any other.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Jacey A. Marks, rifleman, stands watch in the Kunar Province, Afghanistan, October 2005. Courtesy Photo
Before arriving in 2010 with orders in hand to the Mounted Color Guard, Marks served with 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in Kaneohe, Hawaii.
An infantryman by trade, Marks had already completed four deployments.
Barstow was not as structured as Marks' previous command, and it took a little getting used to.
“It was a large adjustment for me,” said the 28-year-old. “I had been a squad leader with 13 Marines under my direct charge.”
Marks recalled some of his trips with the Mounted Color Guard as extremely enjoyable. On one particular cross-country voyage, Marks dove into the planning and found familiar territory.
“We went to support the Marine Corps Marathon and that's on the other side of the country. You have to plan for hotels, alternate gas stations, figure out what your budget is, bravo truck, alpha truck, who's driving, what the rotation is, how much feed you're going to need ... making a checklist every time you stop ... that kind of brought back that mission feeling.”
For Marks, the joy and familiarity of planning a convoy and taking care of Marines returned. It was the same feeling, he said, just not same sense of urgency.
Many events later, Marks explained being with the MCG allowed the Marines to interact on a personal level with small town residents.
In Cody, Wyo., during their annual stampede rodeo and Independence Day parade, Marks said the crowd was so silent, he looked over and saw every man, woman, and child standing.
“Even those in wheelchairs were standing, kids had their hands over their hearts. People just stood in awe and were honored to have us there,” he said.
Before the rodeo began, a young girl was playing the violin and singing the national anthem. During her performance, the sound system and speakers went out. Subsequently, the arena filled with song from the crowd in the bleachers as they joined the young performer, Marks recalled.
“Their passion is huge, it was such a big moment, and the Mounted Color Guard has a lot of those moments,” he said.
After having spent a year with the MCG, Marks moved to the Nebo side of the base, where he served as the color sergeant for the base, the S-3 chief working with training, S-4 chief, managing billeting and logistics for the Marines within the battalion, and a multitude of other duties within the battalion.
An explorer and pioneer by nature, Marks sought out the opportunity to deploy once again. This time, he spent four months in Germany as part of a recovery team with the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command, recovering World War II remains.
“It definitely put history into perspective for me,” he said. For Marks, the experience personified the concept of ‘Never leave a Marine behind.'
His tour in Barstow has made Marks a more well-rounded Marine, and he said it's been a good transition that also allowed him more family time.
“Coming here was like steel hitting the water, and allowing the metal to cool,” Marks explained. “It was good to see the garrison side of things.”
Marks has seen a whole other side to the Corps and said he now has experienced both mental and physical exhaustion. Although different, the mental strength it takes to organize pay, orders, working parties, travel ... administrative work is difficult.
“The infantry is only ten percent of the spear,” he said, referring to the popular slogan "tip of the spear." “It won't work if you don't have the shaft, and that's all the supporting elements within the Corps.”
Another new experience for Marks has been working alongside the many civilian Marines that work day in and day out to support the warfighter.
The civilians take great pride directly supporting their military, Marks said.
“They have this sense of ‘my country and my troops,' and it's a bonus to work with such people,” he said. “As Marines, we have to uphold those high standards that we're known for; we work around and with civilian men and women every day. We're in the public eye more than we think.”
Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Hamilton, a safety specialist on the base, believes that Marks has not only molded the junior Marines around him, but also his fellow NCOs.
“It just shows his all-around character. He is out of his realm, which is by trade, infantry, yet, he's still trying to excel. He cares about his Marines ... I think he's one of the top NCOs here in Barstow.”
Marks has the focused mindset of accomplishing the mission, regardless of what that mission is, and he tries to get those around him in that same mindset, said Hamilton.
“He's not in the infantry any more, but he still has that infantry mindset and he gives meaning to ‘Every Marine is a rifleman,'” explained Hamilton.
While Marks is worried if he's left a “good enough impression,” Hamilton said that's something Marks doesn't have to worry about. He's mentored and shared his knowledge and experience with those up and down the rank structure.
“I turn to him quite often. I've spent my whole career in the air wing and he's helped me see the other side of the Marine Corps. That's what a true leader does,” added Hamilton.
As often is the case, when not spending time with his own family, Marks spends even more quality time with his “Marine family."
“He'll take junior Marines to the Bureau of Land Management to shoot, and teach them various tactical positions, shooting tips, and other combat skills they may find useful,” said Hamilton.
“It's all about sharing your knowledge,” said Marks. And with that, the young sergeant leaves one last carefully crafted piece of advice: “Remember, we crawl through the same mud. Push through all the bureaucracy, accomplish the mission, and stay out of trouble.”
By USMC Gunnery Sgt. Reina Barnett
Provided through DVIDS
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