News: Through bullets, bombs: Florida native improves education
Story by Sgt. Earnest J. Barnes
MARJAH DISTRICT, Afghanistan — Marines around the world invest in their education and professional development by taking Marine Corps Institute distance education courses. The Marines of Kilo Company’s Mobile Assault Platoon also strive to take advantage of this educational program, even during their deployment, but one Marine within the platoon is taking his education to a new level.
Clearwater, Fla., native Lance Cpl. Larry J. Eichel spends every spare moment he has completing courses. The anti-tank missileman with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, has completed more than 15 MCIs within three months of his current deployment and more than 40 overall completed with a little more than two years in the Marine Corps.
The MCIs Eichel has studied cover a wide variety of subjects, from basic infantry skills to maintaining diesel engines. Eichel said the courses give him an edge in performing his job and make him more valuable to his unit in an environment where it is important to be as self sufficient as possible. Eichel said he started with the subjects that directly related to his job before moving on to other courses.
“I’ve always been one of those guys who wants to know all the little tidbits about my Military Occupational Specialty and the infantry related weapon systems, and I always took my education seriously,” said Eichel, a 2009 graduate of Hudson High School. “Doing those MCIs is not only bettering myself and improving myself educationally, [but it] is valuable, useful information I can pass on to other Marines.”
Sgt. Jedediah Roberts, a Grafton, N.Y., native and the section leader for Mobility Assault Platoon, said he believes Eichel, along with the rest of the Marines in his section, is an inspiration to everyone in their company because of the effort he puts forth toward his education, despite his heavy workload.
MAP, which is derived from Kilo’s Javelin Platoon, acts as a quick reaction force for Kilo Company and regularly delivers supplies to various forward operating bases within the company’s area of responsibility. Eichel and his fellow Marines use most of their down time during the day to advance their knowledge.
“We’ll stop at a patrol base and unload water, chow, and all kinds of stuff. [While the Marines] are [unloading] that, we’ll breakout a laptop and work on MCIs,” said Roberts. “These guys really take the MCIs they do and all the education they improve themselves with as a serious endeavor to make themselves better. One thing about Eichel is he is extremely smart, and he applies himself with it all the time.”
Eichel said taking advantage of the educational opportunities available to him means so much to him, even an improvised explosive device couldn’t turn him away from his hunger to learn more about the Corps.
He explained his vehicle struck an IED while on a recent supply run. The bomb shook up everyone in the vehicle and knocked Eichel unconscious. Eichel said the last thing he remembers was hitting his head and waking up to his machine gunner yelling his name.
The blast was so intense that it blew the doors open on their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, according to Roberts. All the Marines involved were assessed and medically evacuated for further evaluation. Eichel managed to grab three MCI tests he had with him before leaving the vehicle. He said his company ran out of white printer paper, and the yellow he printed his tests on prior to leaving caught his eye.
When Eichel was getting on the helicopter to go to the hospital, he turned around and handed the three tests to Staff Sgt. Zachary Rubart, the platoon sergeant for Javelin Platoon. Eichel added Rubart, a Greentown, Pa., native, started laughing and said, “Are you serious right now?”
“I was pretty surprised he was giving me MCIs while he was getting 'medevacked,' but not surprised he was giving me MCIs. He’s been pretty consistent with that,” said Rubart. “I couldn’t believe the level of motivation he exemplified by handing me three completed MCIs.”
Rubart added that Eichel’s actions shine light on what the Marines are doing in Afghanistan and what they are doing to stay motivated, keep morale up, and take care of their careers, on top of accomplishing the mission here.
Eichel said 10 out of the 15 MCIs he has completed during this deployment were during his recovery time before returning to full duty, and he believes all Marines should use their time wisely and take advantage of the many educational opportunities the Marine Corps has to offer.
“I think the Marine Corps offers plenty of opportunities, and I’m sure if you let your command know what your goals and intentions are, they would be willing to work with you and set something up,” said Eichel.
Editor’s note: 3rd battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Force and the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.