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    Long live the King: Marine returns to Corps after 21 years, shares wisdom with juniors

    Long live the King: Marine returns to Corps after 21 years, shares wisdom with juniors

    Photo By James Clark | Sergeant Randy King, a platoon guide for 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, and Ashville,...... read more read more



    Story by Cpl. James Clark 

    Regimental Combat Team 8

    KAJAKI SOFLA, Afghanistan - He can be found in the early mornings, rousing exhausted twenty year-olds from the rack with a mug of steaming coffee in hand, or come evening, shrouded in a veil of cigar smoke, reclining in a leather armchair within a plank and plywood shack of his own construction.

    In the corner of the shanty, a rusty and once derelict oven has been put to good use, and the fire smoldering inside never seems to go out, which is something that can be said of Sgt. Randy King, a platoon guide with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, who serves alongside the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, at Forward Operating Base White House near Kajaki Sofla.

    At first glance, he appears weathered and hard-bitten, but within seconds a smile flashes across his face, followed shortly by a gruff, but full-bellied laugh and his eyes look back with both wisdom and benevolence.

    The 50-year-old sergeant from Ashville, N.C., walks among his Marines, dolling out advice while they work, and a helping hand where needed.

    He is a man of two Corps’, of two generations of Marines, having begun his time in the service in 1979, serving for eight years before ending his active duty contract, for nearly two decades, before returning once more.

    “I liked everything there was about the Marine Corps,” said King, explaining how when he was in high school, he accompanied a friend of his to the recruiter’s office, and found something he didn’t know he was looking for.

    “Listening to the recruiter talk, I thought, ‘I like this; I want to be a Marine.’ I was 17 years old, in high school, trying to become a man, and once I started talking to him I knew I wasn’t going any place else. Marines were the toughest, the best, and at once I knew I really wanted to do this, become a Marine and a man in the same instance, in my mind.”

    Shortly thereafter, King was on his way to recruit training. Originally in the motor transportation field, he changed specialties at the end of his first enlistment, going into logistics, but after eight years, he ended his active duty service.

    “I love the honor. You look out for my back and I got yours…the mentorship and seeing Marines grow,” explained King. “Even if they just stay in for four years, you’re trying to create a better person, a better man. We have honor, courage, the types of things that as a boy you idolize, like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood characters, but the real thing. As a Marine, you try to live by those standards; being a good Marine means being a good person.”

    “I loved it the entire time I was in,” said King, adding that he got out for his family, and during the time away from the Corps, met his current wife. “She had two kids and I had two, so we had a sort of ‘Brady Bunch’ thing going on.”

    King, who currently serves in the Marine Corps Reserve, and works as a captain in the Enka-Candler fire and rescue department in North Carolina, found himself back in the recruiter’s office 21 years later, once again accompanying another on their way to enlist; his son.

    “My son went down and started talking to the recruiter … and I went down there with him to check his paperwork, and the recruiter was talking to me. He said ‘you’re a retired Marine?,’ I was like, ‘no sir, I’m not. I spent eight years in then got out.’ He asked ‘why don’t I come back in,’ and I started laughing at him. ‘I’m 47 years old, who’re you joking!’ and he said ‘no, you can get a waiver and six months you can be in.’ ‘I said, give me the paperwork.’”

    King finishes the story with a long laugh, and an easy smile, before adding, “my wife says I’ve always been a Marine, and it’s true, once a Marine, always a Marine.”

    Six months later, King was headed back to the Marine Corps, and his son was beginning his first enlistment, and now serves as a military policeman aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C.

    With the experiences under his belt, a career back home, an associate’s degree, a wife and a family of four, most in King’s situation would be looking toward retirement, an end to work, but he seems intent on the opposite.

    “I’ve been working ever since to get on active duty and I plan on finishing out 20 years,’ King said. “ I plan to show my wife some of the world. Ever since we got together we’ve always had kids, but now that it’s just her and I since they’re grown, it’s time for us to go out and see the world, depending on where I’m stationed, maybe travel, see the world. It’s just the lifestyle I’d like to show her for the next 10 years.”

    But, before King can begin to work toward his long term goal of retirement, he must finish out this deployment, where both his inherent leadership skills, and experience, have earned him the respect of those he serves with.

    “He’s just kind of the ‘go-to-guy’; you know he’s older and seems to know everything,” said Lance Cpl. Joseph Perry, combat engineer, from Maryville, Tenn., and a 2009 graduate of Maryville High School.

    “I think he and Jesus went to high school together,” Perry added jokingly. “He’s one of those ‘there’s a thousand ways to skin a cat’ guys. In his civilian job he’s a captain at his fire department, and a lot of the leadership carries over. You can see it. He really does care about his guys.”

    After a close friend of his was injured during combat operations in support of 1/6, Perry turned to King for help.

    “I had a lot of trouble sleeping, and just problems with combat stress. Talking to Sgt. King at night, because he’s been there and has seen people hurt, and because he’s older and experienced, he’s given me ways to deal with it.”

    Looking out for the welfare of those subordinate to a leader is one of their core roles, second only to mission accomplishment. With someone like King, it’s readily apparent the moment he introduces himself, offering a drink, or a cigar, and prowling the engineer lot for scrap wood to help make tables and desks for others.

    “You see a lot of the young guys around here, and they’re like my kids,” said King. “It makes me feel good to try to help mentor or coach them along and watch them grow, like the guys on this deployment. It makes me feel good to see how they’ve grown and matured, they’re still young, all Marines are in a sense. I’m a big kid at heart, but, we’re more mature about what we do and how we make decisions. Do we make that right decision or do we goof off?”

    For King, his determination to stay in is dependent not on time, but on capability, he explains, “As long as I am in shape so I can compete with them on their level, not in the 46-and-up bracket, but in their bracket and those guys have to keep up with me, I want to stay in, but when I’m not, it’s time for me to get out of here.”

    With the end of their deployment just around the corner, King prepares to head home to his wife and children, but even while abroad he takes comfort in the fact that where there are Marines, he has both a home and a family.



    Date Taken: 12.27.2011
    Date Posted: 12.27.2011 02:53
    Story ID: 81780
    Location: KAJAKI SOFLA, AF

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