Through the Ranks: Private First Class
(May 8, 2011)
|GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of
Afghanistan (MCN 5/4/2011) — Quiet, muffled conversation
leaks from a guard tower, but only one Marine can be seen
inside. His mouth moves in sync with both sides of the
discussion. He has stood in almost the same place for an
hour, but his eyes have been on the move, intensely
scanning. He shifts his weight to a different leg, bringing
the conversation to a resolution, and pinches smokeless
tobacco into his bottom lip. He's been standing post for two
hours. Pfc. Clark Kirkley has four more before he gets to
“hit the rack.”
Pfc. Clark Kirkley, a native of Knoxville, Tenn., diligently scans his surroundings while standing post here, April 29,
2011. Kirkley, a member of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine
Regiment's Guard Force Platoon, stands post and goes
on patrols regularly as part of the guard force's
security responsibilities of the area.
“Your feet start hurting, and you just want to sit
down, but you can't sit down,” said Kirkley, a
sentry with Guard Force Platoon. “It's just really
uncomfortable. But it's important because you're
keeping the security of the base.”
blue-eyed, Knoxville, Tenn., native isn't insane for
talking to himself; it's a common way Marines pass
time on post. And for Kirkley, standing post will be
one of his main duties for the next seven months.
“Staying vigilant on post can be hard,” Kirkley
said. “I just try to keep myself occupied. Sometimes
I'll talk to myself or just put a dip in. That
He didn't expect to deploy a
short six months after graduating from Marine Corps
Recruit Depot, Parris Island, N.C. Kirkley didn't
know what to think. Scared and nervous are two words
he used to describe how he felt, but there isn't a
Marine Corps order on the
proper emotions when deploying.
Being the only private first class in the Guard Force
Platoon with Hotel Company, Kirkley is at the bottom of the
totem pole. His main concern rests on what order the next
highest-ranked Marine gives him. Every Marine lives
somewhere within the rank hierarchy, but Kirkley, who is at
the beginning of his career, hangs on the bottom rungs. He
is well-accustomed to following orders.
put it, in a slight southern drawl, “Following orders isn't
a question it's my job. I concentrate on just doing what I'm
told, getting it done quickly and learning more about my
job. I guess I'm here as a working body, but every one has
their purpose and each person is important.”
joined the Guard Force after arriving in Afghanistan in
mid-April, having originally belonged to 1st Battalion, 3rd
Marine Regiment Communications.
Marine Corps experience has had many unexpected turns,
that's part of life for a private first class. Kirkley's job
is to selflessly fill the needs of the Corps.
average day, he wakes up between 4 to 6 a.m. He has an hour
to eat, shave, shower and prepare his gear before standing
post. After being relieved of his post, he has the afternoon
to himself, which is usually comprised of a nap and food.
After dinner, he has another post duty, after which he
sleeps. Kirkley wakes a few hours later to start the process
“It makes me realize how precious things
like sleep can be when I'm back home,” Kirkley said. “But I
have a big role as part of the Guard Force. I have a lot of
responsibility. The rest of the Marines are relying on me to
make sure nothing bad happens.”
Along with standing
post, Kirkley is obliged to answer to his squad leader
throughout each day, handling any miscellaneous tasks that
“The first thing that comes to mind is just
to get whatever they need me to do done as quickly as
possible,” Kirkley said.
For Kirkley, post and
answering to his squad leader are a just couple parts of his
deployment. Finding time to e-mail or call home is the other
part. Checking in on his fianc� and family is very important
to him, especially since this is his first deployment.
“Wanting to get back home keeps me getting up every
morning,” Kirkley said. “It keeps getting closer and closer,
even though it's still more than half a year away, but I
constantly think about home, my family and fianc�.”
Kirkley's plans to marry his fianc�, have kids and start
college after the deployment. He decided to join the Marine
Corps after two stagnant years following his graduation from
high school. He still hasn't decided whether to stay in the
Corps or get out.
Right now, Kirkley says he's just
proud to hold the title of Marine.
Editor's Note: ‘Through the Ranks,' is a series of feature
articles about a day in the life of a deployed Marine from 1st
Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Each article will highlight an
individual's personal experience through the perspective of his
rank. This is the fifth article of the series.
Article and photo by USMC Cpl. Colby Brown
Regimental Combat Team 1
Marine Corps News
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