CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Standing over six feet tall, Lance Cpl. Justin Nobles can look pretty intimidating.
But for anyone that spends more than five minutes talking to him, they quickly find a soft spoken guy with a country accent.
Nobles, radio technician, Regimental Combat Team 6, grew up living mostly with his father. His father would work long hours to be able to better provide for him, which is where Nobles says he learned to work hard himself.
“I’ve always looked up to my father,” he said. “He always worked shift work, ever since I can remember. He would sometimes work 12 to 18 hour shifts to provide for me.
Since my dad worked so much, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents,” he continued. “They were like a second set of parents. My grandfather is a real great man. He even started the school system where I live. He definitely taught me how to be a man.”
Even though Nobles was very family oriented growing up, he admits he had made the wrong friends for a while. If it wasn’t for a near death experience, he wouldn’t have joined the Marine Corps.
“Where I come from, people either do the right thing or the wrong thing,” he said. “I got kicked out of school several times; I just couldn’t get my head on straight. I was making some bad choices and some bad friends. It felt like a bad streak a mile wide.”
Things changed one day while Nobles was relaxing in a canoe on a river near his hometown. Suddenly, a boat in front of him got stuck and the two vessels collided. Nobles’ canoe flipped upside down and he was pinned underwater while the canoe was wedged against the boat.
“I just thought to myself ‘well this is it, this is how it’s going to end’,” he said.
As his life flashed before him, he realized he hadn’t done much with it. He says he felt God was giving him a wake up call.
Nobles managed to get his footing and stand up underwater, pushing the canoe out of the way and dislodging it from the boat.
“I really felt like if I died then, I wouldn’t have done anything with my life,” he said. “That next day I went to the Marine recruiter’s office.”
He chose the Marine Corps over the other services because of a cousin who fought in Desert Storm.
“I just had so much respect for him growing up that I guess it just translated into respect for the Marine Corps,” he said. “Once you get the mind set that you want to be a Marine, settling for anything else isn’t something you want to do.”
“I honestly didn’t choose my MOS,” said Nobles, of Petal, Miss. “I thought I was coming in as infantry. I didn’t even know the Marine Corps had a job like this.
Considering he didn’t get the job he wanted, Nobles says he couldn’t have gotten a better job.
“I love fixing all these radios, it’s just like a big puzzle and you have to figure out which piece is missing or broken,” he said with a smile while simultaneously updating the software on some radios. “My job is almost like being a redneck. Rednecks fix everything that’s supposed to be broken, you know.”
One of Nobles’ fondest memories is when he went to Forward Operating Base Delhi to try and fix a radio. He says when he arrived, he was told to rest because he had arrived late at night, but Nobles had a broken radio and a mission to accomplish.
“That particular one had been broken since August of 2011,” Nobles said. “(Third Battalion, 3rd Marines), (3rd Battalion, 5th Marines) and RCT-5 all tried to fix it, but no one could. I fixed it in five hours. I was worried there for a minute, because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to fix it.”
Watching Nobles work on different radios, it’s easy to see his work ethic.
“It’s really just a pride thing,” he said. “There’s no sense in doing some thing half (way). It’s all about being a man and taking pride in what you do. That’s why I try so hard to learn new things about my MOS and try and better myself.”