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    9-11 inspires twin brothers, Chicago natives to enlist

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, YAMAGUCHI, JAPAN

    12.21.2015

    Story by Cpl. Jennifer Webster 

    AFN Iwakuni

    MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda carried out a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States.

    The overall death toll was 2,977 victims from both World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and the United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed into a field near Shanksville, Penn.

    “This is the day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace,” declared former President George W. Bush in his address to the nation. “America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world.”

    The chaos and destruction perpetuated against the United States and its people led two Chicago natives to enlist in the Marine Corps.

    “I did five years of Marine Corps JROTC and my twin brother and I had already decided we were going to jump into the Marine Corps,” said Staff Sgt. James Tomecek, a military policeman aboard Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. “Out of all the branches, the Marine Corps is held as the best, so if we were going to do something, we were going to do it all the way.”

    “I’m going to give credit to my brother on that, because we had talked about it often, but then 9/11 happened and I was like ‘That’s a lot of drama so much for the Marine Corps thing,’” Tomecek explained. “A couple months later we had to start figuring out what we were going to do so I asked my brother, ‘So, what are you thinking about doing?’ to which he responded, ‘We talked about this, the Marine Corps.’”

    “My whole argument was, ‘There’s a freaking war going on. Are you sure you want to be a part of that?’ which he’d respond with, ‘More than ever,’” Tomecek said. “I remember telling him, ‘Well, I’m not going to let you go to war by yourself so I guess we’re joining the Marine Corps.’ That’s pretty much how the whole thing went down.”

    In December 2005, two twin brothers, raised by their single mother in Chicago departed for boot camp in San Diego.

    “We decided to enlist at the same time and to do the whole buddy program,” Tomecek said.

    The buddy program allows you and another individual to enlist and go through training together.

    All Marine recruits start their training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C., or San Diego. This is where men and women are transformed into Marines.

    Drill instructors, also known as DI’s, are entrusted with the care, training and development of Marine recruits. Each platoon is assigned three or more drill instructors, sometimes, informally referred to as “hats” due to their unique campaign cover.

    The head drill instructor is the senior drill instructor. They often bond with the recruits and ensure the DI’s do not push recruits beyond certain barriers or violate regulations.

    The second in command is the Experienced Drill Instructor, also referred to as the “heavy hat” or “drill hat.” They’re the ones who provide the majority of instruction and guidance in close order drill.
    The remaining drill instructor is the Assistant Drill Instructor, also called the “knowledge hat” or “kill hat.” They’re normally charged with teaching recruits academic knowledge and overall discipline.

    In boot camp, recruits add new words, or jargon, to their vocabulary. A “rack” is a bed. A “moon beam” is a flashlight. An “ink stick” is a pen. A “quarterdeck” is the area next to the drill instructors office and the last place a recruit wants to be. The quarterdeck is used to punish recruits by means of repetitive and constant physical exercise.

    “Our recruiter said it would help us if we went together, and it did. We got to feed off each other’s strengths and motivate each other. What our recruiter did not tell us was we were going to get “quarterdecked” every day in boot camp for going through with someone who looks identical to you,” James said.

    “How I recall, it would go down something like this. Our kill hat would call us up; he’d call us by ‘Tomahawk.’ We’d run up to the front, ‘Sir, yes sir,’ and he’d say, ‘Go get your sister.’ We both just knew we were getting “quarterdecked.” It was a good time. It only made us stronger. It built character,” Tomecek said laughingly.

    After 12 challenging weeks those who prevail emerge transformed, having earned the title of United States Marine, prepared to defend our country and each other.

    As the time went on, Nick Tomecek reached his end of active service while James Tomecek, re-enlisted for another four years, continuing his journey in the Marine Corps.

    Moving forward without his brother, Tomecek grew an even greater passion for a sport his twin brother had gotten him into from a young age.

    “Funny story, when we were 13, my brother came up to me one day and said there was a martial arts class going on at the after school center and that we should sign up,” James said. “I told him it sounded stupid, but I’m glad he talked me into it, because now martial arts is a big thing in my life. I owe my brother on that one.”

    Tomecek’s passion for martial arts transferred over to the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, or MCMAP. The martial arts program within the Marine Corps is designed to increase the warfighting capabilities of individual Marines and units, enhance self-confidence and esprit de corps, and foster the warrior ethos in all Marines.

    The MCMAP program uses an advancement system of colored belts similar to that of most martial arts. Listed from lowest to highest, the belt order is tan, gray, green, brown, black and an additional five degrees of black belt. A Martial Arts Instructor, or MAI, is a 2nd degree black belt. A Martial Arts Instructor Trainer, or MAIT, is a 3rd degree black belt. Black belt 2nd degree through 6th signifies that the holder is an authority in MCMAP.

    “I brought the idea up to my gunnery sergeant at the time about the MAI course and he said I would probably be good at it,” said Tomecek. “He sent me, and it was a perfect match. I loved the training and all the physical aspects of being a Marine.”

    “When I got back, I was so beat down by the MAI course,” James said. “I was like ‘There is no way I’m getting my red tab, I’m good with my tan tab.’ About two months later, my gunnery sergeant was like we want to send you to Quantico for your red tab. I was like, ‘Let’s do it,’ and that’s how I got into MCMAP.”

    Throughout the years, Tomecek told himself and the Marines he instructed, “It’s an easy day…”

    “It’s an easy day means the exact opposite,” said Pfc. Scottie Cummings, a MCMAP student going through Tomecek’s course.

    “It’s just a way of putting it in your head to just keep going until you finish,” said Marine Cpl. Taylor Smith, a MCMAP student earning his green belt in Tomecek’s course.

    “Apparently it’s my catchphrase,” Tomecek said smiling.“They used to think it was something I said to be facetious, but it’s something I used to tell myself during the MAI course. That course used to beat my butt, but it was a way to get through the course trying to fool myself mentally saying over and over again, ‘It’s an easy day. It’s an easy day.’ Train the mind and the body will follow, it’s 80 percent mental. Once you push through those mental barriers, you’ll be surprised what you can do.”

    Those who train under Tomecek recognize and admire his expertise and passion for martial arts.

    “I think as a leader and instructor, we have that image in our mind of that standard they uphold,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Pryor, a MCMAP student in Tomecek’s course. “It’s someone who you don’t question if they have the ability to do what they’re telling you to do, both physically and mentally. I don’t think anyone has that problem with Staff Sgt. Tomecek.”

    Tomecek understands the influence he has upon Marines, both at work and in martial arts, and it’s something he doesn’t take lightly or for granted.

    “I’m just trying to pass on what was done for me,” he said. “I got done with the MAI course and there was something very liberating about having a limit or something you don’t think you can do and surpassing that. It opens your mind to different things. It makes you think, ‘What else can I do?’ I’ve seen Marines struggle with certain aspects of the physical standards and seeing them get back up to par, that makes both me, and them feel good. Something I always find interesting is when the Marines are running the course, they hate it. They openly admit they hate it, but the same Marines that are like, ‘I can’t wait until I’m done,’ ‘My body hurts,’ and ‘I’m tired.’ Those same Marines come back a couple weeks later asking when the next course is, because they want on. That just goes to show you the mentality of young Marines. They like a challenge and I’m always up for giving them one.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 12.21.2015
    Date Posted: 12.31.2015 02:00
    Story ID: 185515
    Location: MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, YAMAGUCHI, JP 
    Hometown: CHICAGO, IL, US

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