News: Oklahoma native fuels security in Kajaki
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Helmand province, Afghanistan — There may not be many people who would give up a job they love to make about one-fourth the money simply to become a better person, but that was exactly the case for one Weatherford, Okla., native.
Cpl. Israel W. Owens, a field artillery radar operator with 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, graduated from college and secured himself a good-paying job with a petroleum company. Owens said the paycheck was nothing to complain about, but it wasn’t enough. He knew it took something more than just going to a 9-to-5 job and a lot of money to fill the gap of what was missing in his life.
“The money was good, but there is only so much happiness with money,” said the University of Oklahoma graduate. “I still wanted to do something more.”
The Marine Corps is something he said he always aspired to, even during his four years of employment as a petroleum engineer. Owens explained he came to one of those times in life in which a decision had to be made. Standing at a crossroads, it was now or never. He was only going off of his limited knowledge of the Marine Corps … and he took a leap of faith.
“I always looked at the Marines as gentlemen,” explained Owens. “They know how to treat a lady, but if you mess with them, they aren’t afraid to show their teeth.”
Owens’ attended basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in November 2009 and later attended Field Artillery Radar Operator’s course at Fort Sill, Okla.
He then reported to Hawaii to check into his current unit. He was assigned to the Target Acquisition Platoon, which is responsible for installing, maintaining and operating all field artillery radar equipment used to support 2/12, as well as providing the local security for Forward Operating Base Kajaki while they are deployed.
“His role in the platoon (while deployed) was initially a post stander, having those responsibilities of guarding the gates, manning the observation posts and various other tasks to support the mission here at Kajaki,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Wilborn, a Severna Park, Md., native and the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Owens’ platoon.
Owens has used his personal drive to excel among his peers and earned a meritorious promotion to his current rank with less than two years in the Marine Corps. Wilborn said with Owens’ promotion, he has greater responsibility and continues to perform above his rank.
“His actions kind of caught my eye and made me believe he was a good candidate for meritorious promotion,” Wilborn stated. “He is the easiest person in the world to get along with — he is very compliant with his responsibilities.”
Owens added that it meant a lot to him to be selected for the meritorious board because it showed that his senior leadership was recognizing all of the things he was doing.
“I felt like they were giving me a chance. Even if it was just that, it was still a chance,” said Owens. “But on the day of my promotion, I didn’t believe them. The first sergeant and Staff Sgt. Wilborn did a pretty good job at keeping it from me. Even right before the (promotion) ceremony, it took them a good five minutes to convince me I was getting promoted.”
Owens has been promoted not only in rank, but also in his billet. He has gone from a watch stander to the Sergeant of the Guard, where he is managing and employing the watch standers and gate guards to ensure the safety and security of the Marines within the battalion. It is his Marines who are the first line of defense from the world beyond the gates.
“We are in very close proximity to the enemy’s front lines, so in order for the Marines (of 2/12 to) fulfill their mission with patrols, manning the guns, and the quick reaction force, it is important they feel safe and comfortable where they are at. It takes Marines like Cpl. Owens and several others to fulfill that.”
More than 100 Marines put their safety in his hands, but this responsibility doesn’t shake Owens. He said he feels empowered by putting on the uniform every day and the meaning of his new billet.
“Putting on the uniform every day makes me feel like Superman,” said Owens. “The role of SOG is vital to the mission because it gives people the feeling they are safe. I like being the SOG because I feel like I’m the friend on the inside.”
Wilborn said it is important for the other Marines of 2/12 to have that feeling of safety because they have other things to worry about. He added Owens has really come into his new rank and embraced his billet as SOG.
Owens’ goal of becoming a better person and obtaining that gentlemen status is a continuous process. He said he believes everyone can be better, and the Marine Corps is just the place to expand his life experience. Owens’ leadership said he will continue to carve a path for others in the battalion to follow, demonstrating all aspects of being an exceptional Marine.
“He was a great Marine to begin with — he was more mature and brought a lot more to the table than the average lance corporal. Since his promotion to corporal he has really stepped up to the plate,” said Wilborn,. “He has maintained what he already possessed and willingly accepted additional responsibilities and exercises good judgment. Cpl. Owens is a good representation of how Marines can easily be successful with a little bit of hard work, a little bit of determination, and just following the basics from the Marine Corps Leadership Traits.”
Editor’s note: Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.