News: Sergeant Major reflects on his past and looks to his future
Story by Pfc. Sullivan Laramie
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Sometimes a smell will flood his memories and he is drawn back in time. On other occasions, he encounters someone he knows from his time in the Marine Corps and it brings the past back to him.
Sgt. Maj. John E. Bankus, the outgoing sergeant major of 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, is transferring to Training and Education Command, or TECOM. He reflected on his time within the Marine Corps after handing over his sword and position here, April 18.
“It was an interesting dynamic,” said Bankus, a native of Bloomburg, Penn. “I’ve served with Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, 2nd MLG and 2nd Marine Division. Serving with [TECOM] will be a different viewpoint on how the Marine Corps functions as far as going through Marine Combat Training or Advanced Infantry Training and getting Marines to the [Fleet Marine Force].”
Bankus, who was born in January 1974, grew up in a military family. His two grandfathers served in the Marine Corps, one during World War II and the other during the Korean War. His father also served in the Army.
“I knew at 17 I needed to see a recruiter, sign up and do at least four years, and that’s what I initially did,” Bankus said. “I kept enjoying it and doing four more years, and I woke up one day and it was 20. Here it is and I’m only six months away from 21 years and I still enjoy it.”
Bankus enlisted in late 1992 and became a tank crewman, he said. A favorite memory was the first push into Iraq 11 years later. Bankus said, for him, the invasion was a culmination of all his training.
“I’ve been on five deployments, three to Iraq and two to Afghanistan,” said Bankus. “I’ve had the opportunity to serve with the Marine expeditionary unit combat logistics battalions and do some of the workups with them. A lot of my time has been spent in [the United States].”
The time Bankus spent on military bases in America was a contributing factor in his decision to become a first sergeant, and later a sergeant major, he said.
“That was one of the main reasons I decided to get out of my initial military occupational specialty,” Bankus said. “There were only two locations for a tank crewman to go: Twentynine Palms or Camp Lejeune. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to be stationed at [School of Infantry West, Camp Pendleton, Calif.]”
While the sergeant major looks to what awaits him, he also looks back at his accomplishments and those he spent time with as a contributing factor to his success.
“You’ll draw upon an individual, and that will broaden the scope of your memory,” said Bankus. “Sometimes I’ll reflect on some of the smells from the Iraq days, [the scent] will flood my long-term memory and will bring back that memory, or I’ll run into somebody who’s still in the Marine Corps and he’ll say, ‘I remember you from wherever’, and that in turn will bring some reflections of the past.”
Wherever Bankus goes, he brings his experience and uses it to help those around him. He thanks everyone who acted as a mentor for him and wants to help in the same way.
“I try to make positive impacts by drawing upon my experiences and imparting them to the young Marines,” Bankus said. “I think [mentors] constantly change. You’ll pick up more as your landscape changes or your career changes … I think you’re always going to pick somebody out who you want to be like. There are qualities in that individual that are exactly what you want to put in your toolbox.”