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Military

By USMC Cpl Matthew Brown

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MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO
(MCN - 6/17/2010) — Although many recruits are put into leadership positions throughout recruit training, it is rare for one to know how to handle the responsibilities that come with it from day one.

Lance Cpl. Travis Venerable, 23, the company honor man of Company I, is one recruit who came to recruit training with a toolbox nearly full of leadership traits and knowledge that allowed him to excel past many of his pears.

Venerable's traits may have already been in his possession, but they were not given. In fact, they were earned through a series of life experiences that continuously delayed his inevitable enlistment; an enlistment, he says, he has wanted to begin since 2003.

“When the war (in Iraq) started, my uncle had already been a Marine for a couple years,” said Venerable,
 Recruit Travis Venerable, 23, of Midland, Texas, provides cover for his fellow recruits at the Crucible’s Confidence Course, Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 8, 2010. Prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, Venerable had worked as a bartender, been on a reality TV show, earned $90,000 a year as an oil driller, and had what he called a 'dream job' as a field engineer.
Recruit Travis Venerable, 23, of Midland, Texas, provides cover for his fellow recruits at the Crucible's Confidence Course, Edson Range, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., June 8, 2010. Prior to enlisting in the Marine Corps, Venerable had worked as a bartender, been on a reality TV show, earned $90,000 a year as an oil driller, and had what he called a 'dream job' as a field engineer.
Platoon 3211. “My uncle's initial enlistment and the beginning of the war in Iraq made me realize that I needed to contribute, too; to do something for my country and stop being a drain, but I was only 16.”
Although Venerable was determined to become a Marine, there would be many obstacles in his path to overcome before he could commit to living the enlisted life.

“I didn't join after graduating from high school because my grandmother was worried enough about my uncle as it was,” Venerable said. “So I decided to wait to join until my uncle got out so it wouldn't be so stressful on the family.”

As Venerable awaited his uncle's end of active service, he took advantage of as many opportunities to learn as possible.

“I studied petroleum engineering after work at Midland Community College for a year and a half because the large amount of money available in that field,” said Venerable. “My friend was one of the youngest drillers at Patterson UTI, and he was able to get me a job as a floor hand, which is pretty much the bottom job.”

Venerable took the job seriously and quickly climbed from floor hand, to motor man, to derrick man, then finally to driller.

“Being a driller is kind of like being a squad leader; you still report to somebody, and others report to you,” said Venerable. “I advanced quickly and was paid very well, but it wasn't given to me. There would often be days where I worked 12 hours straight without time to even eat a sandwich.”

Although his uncle finished serving in the Marine Corps in 2008, when Venerable originally planned to sign up, he continued to live with his mother and help pay her bills which postponed his enlistment into the Corps.

“I was making approximately $90,000 a year, which helped a lot because my mom got laid off in 2008,” said Venerable. “Until I got laid off the next year, and unfortunately, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly thereafter, so I had to find a job fast.”

Venerable found a job as a bartender for several months until another opportunity presented itself.

“It turns out, I had lunch with a friend from high school and his cousin who happened to be a caster for a reality TV show called, ‘Black Gold,'” Venerable said. “I always thought I would never do any dumb reality shows while I watched them, but it paid more than bartending and that would help my mom, so I did what the situation needed me to do, and took the job.”

The show featured Venerable and five other newcomers working on an oil rig with a team of drillers who had worked together for some time, which Venerable said caused conflict but taught him a lot.

“Some of the people on the show with me agitated most of the regular crew because they would show up late, drunk, or not at all; it was chaos. It became difficult and tense with people acting like that because it was exactly like working a regular oil rig, only they filmed us doing it,” said Venerable. “I learned a lot about the TV industry and also how to work in high tension situations with aggravated people.”

Once the show completed filming, Venerable and the others were released from their temporary positions.

“The show allowed me some extra money for a short time, but my mother was still sick and I still needed a steady flow of money coming in,” said Venerable. “I got a job laying pipes, a laborer job, until I could find something better, which I did!”

In January 2010, Venerable got a new job as a field engineer.

“It was a dream job,” he said. “I was making six grand every two weeks and I wasn't endangering myself 12 hours at a time and worrying my mom.”

Although Venerable had a well-paying job and was able to financially help his mother, he still knew he had to do his part and become a Marine.

“No one understood why I joined because I had a good job and could do it well,” he said. “By this time, my mother was well enough to be back working again, so I told them I had to take the opportunity, even if it won't pay as much. Money isn't the reason people should serve their country anyway.”

Venerable says although he would have rather gone to boot camp following high school, he would not have been as successful had he not experienced so much prior to enlisting.

“I was much too childish to have been successful immediately after high school,” Venerable said. “If I hadn't had all of that responsibility and all of those chances to learn and help my mother, there is no way I would have been able to be company honor man.”

Venerable's experience and maturity was evident to his drill instructors throughout recruit training.

“He was picked as squad leader right away and was an easy choice for when we needed a new guide,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Zamora, senior drill instructor, Platoon 3211. “I could tell he had been in leadership positions before. He knew how to delegate, mentor, and take corrections from the drill instructors without letting it get to him.”

The next steps in his journey will take Venerable to the School of Infantry and then to his military occupational specialty school where he will train to be an aviation mechanic.

“I think he'll do outstanding during his career if he keeps it up because he's not afraid of being in front of large groups and leading them,” said Zamora.

He may have plenty of tools in his life skills toolbox already, but that doesn't mean Venerable's quest for self improvement will come to a close any time soon.

“I am going to try and learn as much as possible and become a better person,” Venerable said. “I don't care if it takes 20 years, I won't let this opportunity to learn and improve go to waste.”

Article and photo by USMC Cpl Matthew Brown
Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Marine Corps News

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