News: Featured Marine Maj. Scott Sturrock
Story by Staff Sgt. Gavriel Fleischman
STUTTGART, Germany - Today, the Marine Corps bid farewell to Maj. Scott Sturrock. Sturrock is originally from Nacogdoches, a small town in East Texas with a population of less than 20,000. It was from this small Texas town that Sturrock would launch a military career that included a four-year stint in the Army before finding his calling in the Marine Corps and staying for twenty-three years. According to Sturrock, "I wanted to go Airborne but it was the 80's Army. They were just too big; unless you were lucky enough to land in the 82nd Airborne or 101st, there wasn't much of a challenge. I wanted a challenge. So I did my four years and got out." Not before he did Army basic training, commonly referred to as boot camp, twice. "I was young and dumb. They told me I had to do it again, so I said 'ok' and I did it again."
After four years in the Army, Sturrock went looking for greater challenges; quickly realizing that meant the Marines. The first challenge was attending Marine Corps boot camp, and he signed up. He was soon off to boot camp number three. He responded to the obstacles he faced by demonstrating the small-unit leadership qualities that have exemplified great Marines through out the Marine Corps' storied history. As a leader in Iraq and Afghanistan, these would be the same qualities he instilled in his Marines.
Before he would get the chance to lead Marines in battle, he had a big decision to make. Sturrock was ready to move on to the next challenge in his life, and he decided that would be to become a Marine Corps Officer. "If Marines are thoroughbred horses, then officers are the Jockeys that drive them, train them, and care for them." He took the paperwork requesting to become an officer home to the kitchen table, and that is where it stayed until his wife, Misty Sturrock, finally picked it up and filled it out. During his retirement speech he thanked her, saying, "I would not be here if it wasn't for you." She was able to say with a big smile, "I know." After the ceremony, she would say with a laugh, "I knew if I didn't do it, I would have to hear him say, 'why didn't you make me do it,' for the rest of his career. Plus the pay raise was nice!" This must be why they say, "Behind every good Marine stands a better woman."
Sturrock got his chance at a great challenge: Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, training grounds for all Marine Corps officers, his fourth and final basic training. He made the most of it, culminating in being trusted to lead Marines into combat four times, once in Iraq and three times in Afghanistan.
His proudest memory as a Marine came during one of those deployments on a typical 120-degree hot afternoon. After traversing an enemy stronghold along a route known for its ambushes and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), Sturrock was standing by his vehicle, having just received his second bag of IV fluids to combat dehydration. His Marines had blown a hole in the wall of a compound just to fit their vehicles, two of which had been hit by the enemy, and to seek refuge for the Marines. They were sweaty and sticky from the 120-degree heat, constantly drinking to replace the water from constantly sweating to try to cool themselves under their 25-pounds of gear. It was not uncommon for them to need IV bags after a mission to replace what drinking could not. Sturrock looked around at his Marines in their grimy, dirt and sweat-stained uniforms. All sharing tired but alert expressions that goes along with eighteen-hour days. You could not tell as they went about securing the area and attempting to fix their vehicles. He realized that besides himself, at 43, and a couple SNCOs, in their late 20s, the rest of his platoon was 18, 19, and 20-year-old kids. These were kids that, during this deployment, had been shot at and responded by attacking those shooting at them. He remembered having to explain this to his wife and realizing, possibly for the first time himself, that this is not normal behavior. It is quite the opposite; yet, these kids followed their training, and it kept them alive. He thought to himself, "Where do we find kids like this?"
It occurred to him what brave individuals he had been blessed with leading. They were not the exception; they were the norm in the Marine Corps. Over his twenty-four years, he saw it numerous times. One conversation with a 19-year-old lance corporal exemplifies the mental toughness of these kids, wise beyond their years. Upon inspection of the vehicle, Sturrock observed the right front tire had been blown off and a bullet had gone through the windshield. The vehicle could run on flat tires and the ballistic glass had slowed the bullet so it had barely made it through the windshield before falling to the floor harmlessly. Sturrock, noticing the close call, remarked to the lance corporal, "You are lucky to be alive!" Without stopping the repairs the lance corporal was doing or even hesitating to think, the lance corporal replied matter-of-factly, "Day ain't over yet sir!" With that memory, Sturrock still gets choked up with emotion. He says it was with courage and finality that these young men accepted and even embraced their patriotic duty, although, it wasn't only patriotic duty that motivated them. Sturrock would explain, when the shooting started and they had to do that which is not natural, such as charge towards those that were shooting at them, they did not do it for "God or country but for the man standing next to them." This exemplifies the espirit de corps that moves Sturrock to tears each time he talks about it. For a tough-as-nails, take-no-crap kind of guy like Sturrock, that speaks to his values as much as their character.
It was not all trials and tribulations for Sturrock. He had many good times as well. His final tour led him to Stuttgart, Germany, where he served as the Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection Officer for Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa. While working behind a desk was not his dream job, Europe had some advantages. He was determined to make the most of it. For Sturrock, came the opportunity to tour historical battlefields that he had previously only read about. Sturrock, an avid reader, prefers to read about great battles and their leaders. He describes his favorite experience as "standing on Omaha Beach, staring across it, imagining what took place."
Given that Germany would be his last duty station, it is fitting since that he started here 27 years ago. As a young man starting in the Army, Pfc. Sturrock was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. Finding himself back where it all started, Maj. Sturrock stated that his career in the military is ending not at all where his young 19-year-old self envisioned it ending. That was for the best he says. He feels very fortunate at his path and is looking forward to the next step. He will be attending Texas State University to earn his second masters, this time in U.S. History. He plans to go on to teach part time, leaving the prospect of a doctorate and a university teaching position in the realm of possibility. If his larger than life personality comes out in his classroom, his students are in for a memorable class and are guaranteed to not forget their lessons. When ask what message he wishes to leave with the generation of Marines that will be filling his rather large shoes, he sums up his 27 years with a simple and profound statement, "No man is a leader until ratified in the eyes of his men." Thus closes one chapter in a great book, allowing the next chapter to begin.