GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA
Among the few and the proud exist an even smaller, but equally proud group; the Marine Corps officer. The tenacity of the enlisted Marine bleeds over into that of the officer corps.
"My only answer as to why the Marines get the toughest jobs is because the average leatherneck is a much better fighter," said former 2nd Lt. Richard Kennard during his battles in World War II. "He has far more guts, courage and better officers... These boys out here have a pride in the Marine Corps and will fight to the end no matter what the cost."
Those values are what drove one Marine officer from the airman blue suit to that of the leatherneck.
Marine 1st Lt. Christopher Richardson, who works at Joint Task Force Guantanamo as one of approximately 10 other JTF Marines, and one of approximately five JTF Marine officers, has earned his 15 Minutes of Fame.
"While the Air National Guard does many things well, I wanted a more physical challenge and a regime of discipline I was not getting there," Richardson said. "So, I decided to get a commission in the Corps."
He said it's interesting being one of the very few here at Guantanamo Bay.
"There aren't many of us," he said. "It's good to see other Marines here."
In this environment, Richardson works for J-3, the operations section. In that capacity, he has had to learn to speak the language of all the five services represented here.
"It's a good experience to work with other branches, to see how they operate and do business," said Richardson.
In his nine years with the military, including four in the Air Guard, Richardson, as a Marine, has completed the 12 weeks of Marine Corps Officer Candidate School and the 26-week "Basic School", where newly commissioned Marine second lieutenants are given extensive training on weapons, tactics, leadership and protocol.
He also went to Infantry Officers Course and Scout Sniper Platoon Commanders Course at Marine Corps Headquarters Quantico, Va., and Ground Intelligence course at Dam Neck, Va., before he arrived at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, his first Marine Corps duty station.
On Camp Lejuene, Marines are constantly being rotated through deployments to and from the Middle East, he said. There, he provided the commander's staff with real-time ground intelligence on the area of operations.
Richardson, who became used to the fast pace of Marine Corps bases, notices a similar pace here at Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
"Our value of the mission here is very much like back at my active-duty base," he said. "Everyone seems to be hitting on all cylinders all the time.
He said despite being one of the less-than-a-dozen Marines here, he's very much a part of the team.
"I am glad to be contributing to mission success wherever the Joint Task Force command needs me," Richardson said. "We're all one team in the same fight."
JTF Guantanamo consists of service members from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps. Richardson notices differences between the Marine Corps and the other branches of service.
"The Marine Corps has a distinctive culture," he said.
Richardson considers Marines to be very disciplined and considers routine training to be very intense.
"We're considered America's 911, we are the first to fight," he said.
Richardson plays a part in today's 911 force by acting as a first lieutenant, who serves as a buffer between high ranked Marines and lower ranking enlisted.
"We [lieutenants] give [lower enlisted Marines] the resources and training to accomplish the mission," he said.
Richardson plans to continue benefitting from the Marine Corps by fulfilling his obligation of service while doing his best job wherever he is located. Now married, his long term goals are focused on his family rather than himself.
"I can't think of what is best for me anymore, or what I would like to do," said Richardson. "I have to think what is best for my new family."
Richardson has defined selflessness with his actions and continues to be a hefty contributor to society and the Marine Corps.
||GUANTANAMO BAY, CU
This work, The Few, The Proud in the JTF, by Cpl Justin Wheeler, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.