FIRE BASE FIDDLER’S GREEN, Helmand province, Afghanistan – It is not uncommon for Marines to spend birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays away from family, and some children may not understand why their parents cannot be home for these significant days. One North Tonawanda, N.Y., native wondered the same thing for years, but it wasn’t until becoming a Marine he began to understand why his father couldn’t always be around.
Sergeant Robert Leshinsky now understands, through his own experiences as a Marine, what it is like to be in his father’s shoes and sees his family stretches far beyond that of his immediate kin.
Leshinsky, the ammunition chief for Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, visited his father, now retired Sgt. Maj. Joseph J. Leshinsky, about once a year when he was growing up. He said during these summertime trips, his father couldn’t take extensive amounts of time off work. Joseph, a Ransomville, N.Y., native, wanted to spend time with his son and exercised another option and brought his children to work when possible. This is where Robert saw his future begin to take form.
“Obviously, he didn’t have enough (vacation time) to take a whole month whenever we’d come to visit him. He’d have to go to work, and he’d take me with him,” said Robert. “I would get to see the Marines and how they interacted with one another. That is just something I wanted to be a part of.”
The 2003 graduate of North Tonawanda High School visited his father in Europe during the summer before his senior year. He said he saw enough of the Marine Corps to make him want to be a part of it from visiting his dad at various duty stations across the United States and the world.
The young Leshinsky joined the Corps in June 2003 and is now on his third deployment, his second to a combat zone. Most Marines deploy with the expectation of performing their jobs throughout their tour. Leshinsky said it is his job as the ammo chief to order, issue, and account for all munitions for the battery. Leshinsky keeps the battery’s ammunition stockpiled and orders more as needed.
“(The battery is) out here to shoot artillery, so the ammo chief is pretty critical,” said Leshinsky. “When they are in need of ammo, I coordinate the re-supply and make sure it gets here in a timely manner.”
Ammunition for any combat unit is of obvious importance, but for an artillery unit, it must remain ready to fire at all times, day and night, according to Leshinsky.
The battery has not fired a great deal since the beginning of the deployment, which eliminates the amount of time Leshinsky spends ordering and tracking ammunition en route to the unit.
Leshinsky only needs to get daily accountability of the ammunition on hand and takes on other duties within the battery to support the unit’s mission. The bullets and projectiles Leshinsky is responsible for would be of no use without the weapons they are matched with. Leshinsky also works as the battery’s custodian in the armory, keeping track of all the battery’s weapons and optic systems.
“Every time a convoy goes out, every time a Marine stands post, they’ve got to have (weapons and) optics,” said Leshinsky. “I’ve got to swap them out and make sure they have gear that works.”
Staff Sgt. Tyler Hall, a Meeker, Colo., native and the local security chief for the battery, said Leshinsky’s positions are of the utmost importance to the battery, but he has another duty equally important to his responsibilities as the ammo chief and armory custodian – his role as the sergeant of the guard.
Leshinsky said as the SOG, he is directly responsible for everyone’s safety on the fire base. He makes sure the post standers, or sentries, have all the gear they need and posts and relieves them from their duty shifts. He also regularly checks on his sentries, on and off duty, and ensures they are getting the appropriate amount of sleep so they can remain vigilant when standing post.
Each day he performs pre-combat checks for the Marines going on shift. These inspections ensure each Marine has the protective gear and equipment needed to conduct his duties safely and efficiently. Leshinsky briefs the Marines on Rules of Engagement and Escalation of Force each day, quizzing the post standers to drive home the importance of remaining vigilant and reacting properly to any situation.
“(You have to) make sure they are briefed on the ROEs and EOF, so if at any time they have to make a decision, they can know they are making the right one,” said Leshinsky. “You have to constantly be a reminder to the troops to not be complacent. I tell them, ‘This is not Twentynine Palms, (Calif.,) Mojave Viper, or home … this is the real deal.’”
Three jobs in one could prove to be a challenge for most, but Hall, who is one of Leshinsky’s supervisors, said his performance is admirable.
“He is juggling everything quite well,” said Hall. “He is adapting to several different roles, and that is what is expected as a sergeant.”
Hall added Leshinsky is very dependable, and the junior Marines are taking notice.
“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sergeant Leshinsky is he is a very well-rounded, respectable individual,” said Hall. “He is one of those types of guys who leads by example, which I think is crucial in every noncommissioned officer.”
Leshinsky’s ability to lead by example and uphold his core values is what makes the junior Marines seek him out for advice. Whether his juniors want to talk about work or life, Leshinsky is more than willing to share his advice and life experience as a Marine of more than eight years and father of two.
Leshinsky works hard to display those same qualities he saw in the Marines visiting his father all those years ago. He said those adolescent experiences changed him, his Marine Corps experience helped him see life from his father’s point of view, and fatherhood has changed him as a Marine. Being a dad helps him prioritize and understand some of his father’s life decisions and sacrifices.
“I do understand now what went on throughout my whole life with him not being around as much,” said Leshinsky. “His priorities … I understand them better now, and I guess it does make us a little closer.”
Leshinsky’s early ties to the Corps made him want to follow in his father’s footsteps. His career may take him away from his wife and children, but much like his father, Leshinsky has found an extended family in the Marines he serves with.
“I’ve known friends back in the states for 20 years, and I know these guys for three years at a time. I’m closer to any of these guys than any of my friends back home,” said Leshinsky. “That is what I love about the Marine Corps.”
Editor’s note: Second Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to 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 Forces 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.