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    Gunny drives DLI students in right direction

    MONTEREY, CA, UNITED STATES

    10.16.2018

    Story by Brian Lepley 

    Presidio of Monterey Public Affairs

    PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, California -- He's old enough to be the grandfather of Defense Language Institute students, but it'd be hard to find someone at the Presidio of Monterey who relates to them better.

    With a smile and polite, warm greetings, he interacts very school day with hundreds of DLI's Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

    "Gunny is awesome. He's a star," said Army Pvt. Angela Lee. "There's no one like Gunny."

    "He always says 'good morning,' 'good afternoon,' he's everyone's favorite bus driver," said Seaman Royze Cachero.

    "He takes care of us; he makes riding the bus fun," said Airman 1st Class Conner McGaughey.

    "He makes sure that the service members here are well taken care of," said Lance Cpl. Alivia Severson.

    The proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" relates to the Presidio, with more than 2,300 students tackling intensive foreign language training here. Meet one of the lesser known, but crucial village members: Bobby Enriquez, the driver of shuttle bus number 14.

    "I get along with everybody. I put myself in their shoes," said the retired Marine Corps gunnery sergeant. "Once they start riding my bus, I get to know them, and we start to talk."

    Enriquez was in these service members' shoes in 1971, when he enlisted in the USMC upon graduation from Seaside High School, across Monterey Bay from the Presidio. His father was a drill sergeant at Fort Ord.

    He began driving a shuttle bus here in 2013, 20 years after retiring from the Marines.

    "I didn't know how I was going to adjust to today's military compared to when I was in, to cope with the way they are now," Enriquez said. "It was a challenge, since all the branches are here, but everything's gone well.

    "I am very impressed by this younger generation. I didn't know if they were going to be respectful; they are very respectful."

    Gunny's relationships with DLI students reaches outside of his bus. Air Force Lt. Col. Bert Cool, the DLI dean of students, sees every student's mid-course and end of course evaluation. They state that Gunny is someone who's positively affected their lives and studies.

    "The comments are quite amazing, that these students went out of their way to praise him. A lot of times, he's the only positive comment we see," Cool said. "He obviously mentors them. There's had to be thousands of students, he's impacted since he's been here."

    Some survey excerpts describing Gunny: "really cares about the students." "everyone loves riding his bus." "We have very important places to be at certain times … Gunny has been my lifesaver during the year I've been here." "Gunny is phenomenal. The compassion and friendship he provides to the students is so important." "Gunny's motivation brightens my day."

    As a former drill instructor, Gunny was familiar with the military training environment. But the USMC combat training he conducted is about as different from DLI as apples to hand grenades.

    "I commend them for what they're doing because they have a big responsibility here," Enriquez said. "There are a lot of older service members here; I would think they would take more liberty, go to Duffy's. But they don't. They study hard."

    A new student's response to Gunny's first greeting always includes addressing him as 'sir.'

    "His catch phrase is, 'Don't call me sir, call me Gunny!' Everything goes with him from there," said Lee, a Korean student with the 229th Military Intelligence Battalion.

    "That's how it all starts and that's how I get along with them," Enriquez said. "I hear about the stress, everything they go through, and I know their personalities. I know when something's bothering them and I ask them if they want to talk about it."

    He marvels at the students' camaraderie, driven by their common education goal and the difficulty in achieving it.

    "What I like about here is that everybody's so integrated. All the branches communicate with each other so well," Enriquez said. "When I was in, they were teaching you, 'The Army is this … the Navy's that … don't socialize with them!' I think it's awesome here."

    His relationships with all the branches are strong. But as his bus decorations indicate, Enriquez' remains with the USMC. While driving, any gathering of Marines he sees from his window, including unit formations, gets a hearty "Semper Fi Marines!" from Gunny.

    When the USMC barracks were near the Physical Fitness Center, many Marines rode his bus daily to get to mid and lower PoM. Now the Air Force occupies those barracks.

    "I wondered how the Air Force was going to adjust to having a Marine driving them around," he remembered. "But it worked out perfectly. I bonded with them."

    "I told him 'You make me almost regret not joining the Marines,'" said McGaughey, a Korean student with the 314th Training Squadron.

    Enriquez, now retired from the Marine Corps for longer than he served, is at the age when many folks are retired or ready to do so. He has no plans to stop driving, which seems to be good news to his passengers.

    "He makes sure that the service members here are well taken care of by letting them know that if they are feeling down, lonely, or that they have no one to turn to -- no matter what it is -- they can always talk to him," said Severson, a French student with the U.S, Marine Corps Detachment.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 10.16.2018
    Date Posted: 10.16.2018 17:48
    Story ID: 296676
    Location: MONTEREY, CA, US 

    Web Views: 38
    Downloads: 0
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