News: Commitment defines Marine through multiple deployments
Story by Cpl. Mark Garcia
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Commitment is often used to describe Marines, for Master Sgt. Eric Johnson it has defined his life.
Johnson, the current operations chief for Regional Command Southwest, enlisted in the Marine Corps as a teenager, 22 years later he is serving on his fourth combat deployment.
“I joined when I was 19, so I didn’t have a life before the Marine Corps,” said Johnson, from Salt Lake City, Utah. “I have more time in the Marine Corps than time as a civilian. I love what I do, so I’ll just keep doing it until they make me get out.”
Johnson had the desire to be a Marine since he was a child.
“When I was a little kid, I liked the uniforms,” Johnson said. “My mom was a jeweler, and the company she worked for used to make the eagle, globe and anchors. She would bring them home for me as a little kid, so it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was probably five or six.”
Johnson came in with an infantry contract. During his previous three deployments, he was with advisor teams or infantry units, which typically do seven-month deployments. Johnson says this deployment is harder than the others because of its duration.
“This deployment is a little different because it’s a year, so it’s been a pretty rough deployment but it’s gone fast,” Johnson said. “Because of the drawdowns we’re short on people, so you’re doing two or three peoples work. But they say long days make for quick weeks.”
For Johnson, working in the operations section, which tracks all of RC (SW)’s current and future operations, has been a new experience compared to his previous deployments.
“Being in the operations section you never know what each day is going to be like,” Johnson said. “We manage the common operational picture, we track the battle space, we track information to and from the commanding general to the subordinate units, and we watch all the different units out there. We try to look ahead to see what assistance we can provide. Before the units even need it, we’re already trying think about it.”
While things may become hectic at times, Johnson noted the professionalism of his sailors and Marines during the deployment.
“They’ve all done awesome, the sailors are pretty much responsible for all the medical evacuations within RC (SW). They’ve been recognized as being the best patient evacuation cell in the country,” Johnson said. “The Marines on the watch floor are all infantry Marines by trade, so they’ve had learn to type on the fly, they’ve had to learn grammar and they’ve had to learn military terminology they wouldn’t normally use. So it’s been pretty amazing to see how well they’ve come together and how well they’ve done over the deployment.”
During Johnson’s time in the Marine Corps, he has become interested in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program earning a black belt with two red tabs signifying he is capable of training martial arts instructors.
“Doing MCMAP really opened my eyes to what’s out there for martial arts,” Johnson said. “It got me into civilian martial arts to kind of expand my knowledge. It kind of goes back and forth, the civilian martial arts fills the MCMAP and the MCMAP fills the civilian martial arts, but it’s definitely something I love doing.”
Johnson misses his family and looks forward to making up for lost time when he sees them. During this deployment, he has missed the birth of a grandson. To pass his time, Johnson enjoys participating in Cross-Fit with other Marines.
“I’ve been doing Cross-Fit for a while, but the intensity level has definitely increased here. We have a good group, and we kind of push each other and motivate each other,” Johnson said. “So I work out a lot, it’s just kind of my escape from everything. We’ll work out in the mornings just to kind of forget what’s going around us.”
Johnson’s day-to-day tasks include overseeing all operations, preparing for future operations and looking after the wellbeing of his Marines.
“He’s a good mentor and he’s always there to give us guidance. If I ever have any questions about my job or need advice on anything I feel comfortable enough to ask him,” said Cpl. Blair Rehder, a watch noncommissioned officer with RC (SW). “He definitely takes care of us and makes sure we have what we need to do our job.”