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Tragedy Inspires New Marine
by USMC Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery - April 24, 2012

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Recruit James Hibler, Platoon 2135 guide, Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, secures the area April 10, 2012 aboard Edson Range, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Hibler has displayed excellent leadership skills since at recruit training. He has been Plt. 2135's guide since training day one which is a hard title to maintain. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery
Recruit James Hibler, Platoon 2135 guide, Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, secures the area April 10, 2012 aboard Edson Range, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Hibler has displayed excellent leadership skills since at recruit training. He has been Plt. 2135's guide since training day one which is a hard title to maintain. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery

 SAN DIEGO (4/19/2012) - Life sometimes takes turns that shake one's foundation to the core, bringing about a life altering experience.

Pfc. James Hibler had a promising future ahead of him. He finished his bachelor's degree in criminal justice, patrolled with the Fort Worth Police Department for a few years, then he began the hiring process for a position with Homeland Security. With a single tragic event, the future he had planned was no longer what he desired.

April 6, 2011, Hibler received a call informing him that his longtime friend, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Daniel Smith, was killed while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Six weeks prior, Hibler and the rest of Smith's friends and family said their goodbyes, anticipating Smith's safe return—after all, he had come home safely from three deployments prior. Hibler couldn't believe the news. But once it was confirmed by a reliable source, he instantly found a new calling in his life.

That same day, he was face-to-face with a Marine recruiter. He was ready to join the same cause Smith had given his life for.

After attending Smith's funeral, Hibler said it was obvious how respected Smith was for his dedication to his country. Seeing this helped reinforce just how much Hibler wanted to make a difference.

“Being at his funeral made me realize I had done a lot in my life, but I hadn't done anything that would make me feel as proud as I did about my friend,” said the 27-year-old Arlington, Texas, native.

With prior Marines in his immediate family, Hibler already had a positive view of the Marine Corps. His brother served four years as an enlisted Marine. Seeing the way his brother carried himself after joining the Marine Corps influenced his decision to enlist.

Hoping to make his family and friends proud, Hibler has done his best to display his leadership skills since arriving at recruit training 12 weeks ago.

“He's been the guide since Training Day One,” said Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Lopez, drill instructor, Plt. 2135, Company F, 2nd RTBn. “He's displayed all the qualities we look for in a guide. He motivates fellow recruits, gives them guidance and knowledge. He's a good leader.”

The guide is chosen among 60 to 70 recruits by the drill instructors. He must display excellent leadership skills and lead fellow recruits throughout recruit training. It's a difficult position to maintain in recruit training and most recruits don't hold the title very long unless they excel in the position the way Hibler did.

“He's shown me how to be a leader,” said Pfc. Preston Agalzoff, Plt. 2135, Company F, 2nd RTBn. “I'm fourth squad's leader and he has helped me excel in this position.”

Squad leaders help the guide maintain structure in the platoon. They are also selected by their drill instructors for good leadership qualities. Hibler never hesitated to share his knowledge or time with fellow recruits.

“The recruits know they can always go to Hibler at any time, about anything, and he will help them,” said Agalzoff, the 18-year-old Seaside, Ore., native.

Now that recruit training is winding down for Company F, Hibler will soon be a Marine and carry his leadership on to fellow junior Marines in the fleet.

“He's already experienced a lot in life, giving him the ability to share his experience with fellow Marines,” said Lopez.

Hibler has shown he's learned many valuable traits prior to coming to recruit training. This makes him a valuable asset to the Marine Corps if he continues to uphold his leadership skills.

“I wanted to try and bring my leadership skills I had gained from patrolling with law enforcement officials to the Marine Corps,” said Hibler, Platoon 2135, Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.

Company F graduates April 20 aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Hibler and the rest of Company F will go on to complete Marine Combat Training at Marine Base Camp Pendleton. Hibler will then be trained in the military occupation of enlisted aircrew, where he hopes to excel in his new job and help others. He will continue honoring Smith's memory through his service.

“My friend's one-year anniversary since his death was just a few days ago,” said Hibler, “Being at recruit training during his anniversary makes me reflect on what I'm doing with my life now and why it's important.”

By USMC Lance Cpl. Crystal Druery
Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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