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    13th MEU Marines steam home 7 months better

    13th MEU Marines steam home 7 months better

    Photo By Sgt. Paris Capers | USS BOXER, AT SEA (AUG. 19, 2016) – U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Carlton...... read more read more

    Sgt. Jeffrey Gilliard, a 120mm mortarman with the 13th MEU’s ground combat element, has been off the ship for every training evolution from Hawaii to Dubai to the United Arab Emirates. Despite a high work tempo, he has spent his time at sea teaching the mental, physical and character disciplines of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program to junior troops. Gilliard, a Philadelphia native, has dedicated more than 60 hours of instruction across multiple courses from entry-level sustainment to advanced techniques. For him, it’s more than just training. He’s molding Marines the same way he was brought up in the Corps.

    “I’ve been teaching on this deployment because the interaction you get with MCMAP is just what young Marines need at sea,” Gilliard said explaining how controlled outlets for aggression and frustrations keep the troops even-headed. “When I had just enlisted, my own MCMAP instructors helped channel the energy I had forward and outward for the rest of my career,”

    Gilliard’s instructors were passionate about the programs benefits, didn’t compromise on the standards and personally led him to become an instructor himself.

    “I’m seven months better because I have helped Marines grow with the tools the Marine Corps gave me,” said Gilliard. “Their success is my success and that’s a good feeling.”

    While Gilliard and his students have relied on MCMAP, other Marines have met physical success on deployment in other ways, like setting fitness records in their off-duty time.

    Cpl. Sarah Czepiel, a radio operator with the 13th MEU’s logistics combat element, is one of those Marines. She currently holds a USS Boxer women’s fitness record for running 1.5 miles in 10 minutes and 7 seconds. The record has remained unbroken since April.

    “When the gym’s record board opened for competition it started filling up fast,” said Czepiel, “People were lifting crazy weights to beat one another, but no one seemed to be even trying out for the running or rowing records. They weren’t even slightly interested.”

    Czepiel works the night shift, where interruptions in service or unmonitored systems could be disastrous, so she ran in the early morning and shortened her meals for more time to train.

    “It wasn’t like training for a marathon or anything, but I knew I had to focus,” Czepiel said. “I ran on the flight deck, on treadmills, on the ramps of the ship when they were open, and even in the hangar bay when ramps were closed. Plus, I didn’t want to put just any old number on the board. When people see it they should think ‘Man, she was really flying!’ and I feel like I did just that.”

    According to Czepiel, the personal lessons she learned training for the record make her optimistic for returning home. She’s returning with a renewed sense of her own ability for growth.

    “I’m going home seven months better because I know I can challenge myself in ways other people might not try to. I’ll definitely do it more often.”

    While most Marines are preparing for the next professional military education school slot or duty station after the float, Sgt. Joshua Pack, an armorer with the 13th MEU’s command element, has spent his time preparing for a bigger challenge wrapped in a deceptively small package. He and his wife are expecting a baby shortly after his return.

    Back in March, a month into deployment, Pack was overjoyed when his wife told him they would be finding out the gender of the child.

    “When I found out I was going to be a father I thought about a whole life with my wonderful wife and our little one,” said Pack. “But we didn’t know whether we were going to have a boy or girl and this is my first, so I had to cover all of our bases.”

    His transition into fatherhood began thousands of miles away in the USS Boxer’s library. As an avid reader, Pack began devouring everything he could find on the ins-and-outs of parenting. The few books he found combined with web articles and sources gave him tools and anecdotes for his role in molding and nurturing his child through the early years.

    “The only thing we couldn’t prepare for is whether to buy things in pink or blue,” chuckled Pack, explaining how his family had been hounding him about a gender reveal from the day he announced the pregnancy.

    After approaching the Marines who maintain the unit’s official page, Pack was able to do a baby reveal on Facebook for the whole world to see mid-deployment. He appeared holding a sky blue paper baby rattle in a “Faces Friday” segment, where he broke his news about the coming addition to the family’s gender.

    “We’re having a baby boy and I can’t wait to welcome my son with all the things I’ve learned all this time away,” Pack said with a wide smile. “I’m going home better because I’m going back to my wife with an appreciation and understanding of what we need to do for our boy.”

    The Marines aren’t the only ones returning as better people. Sailors have had their noses to the grindstone, too.

    Petty Officer 2nd Class Carlton Tucker, a Corpsman with the 13th MEU’s aviation combat element, assists MV-22 Osprey crew chiefs in their duties before, during and after flight as a certified aerial observer. In his off duty time, he often spearheads ship-hosted events like karaoke night, ice-cream socials and more.

    “I’ve always been big on morale,” explained Tucker, “Whenever you do the same things day in and day out, it seems like groundhog day. Things get boring and morale decreases.”

    Thinking back to his previous Western Pacific Deployment as a junior sailor, Tucker remembers the feelings of isolation, boredom and frustration that settle in during long stretches at sea. He became active in his ship’s Junior Enlisted Association, which hosts shipboard events to give men and women serving at sea a reprieve from the day-to-day grind.

    Now, as a seasoned petty officer, Tucker hosts similar events with the Second Class Petty Officer’s Association with a genuine smile, gentle encouragement and an abundance of enthusiasm.

    The 27-year-old Detroit, Michigan native has been entrenched in music his whole life, singing in choirs, weddings and churches since the age of seven, so it’s no stretch he would find himself leading dozens of troops at these events. He often adds a timeless vibe to the events with classic songs from artists like Frank Sinatra.

    “At the end of this deployment I’ve learned a lot, I’ve seen a lot and I’ve done a lot on a professional level,” said Tucker, “I’ve also made a positive impact on the people here for the last seven months and that personal success is all I really need.”

    Whether it’s fitness, parenting, martial arts or simply leading by example, the Marines and Sailors of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit are citizens returning home with personal and professional growth to share with their friends and families.

    Correspondent: Paris.Capers@boxer.usmc.mil



    Date Taken: 08.26.2016
    Date Posted: 08.26.2016 15:48
    Story ID: 208266
    Location: AT SEA

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