TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - No Marine has the exact same story on how they came to earn the title, but every Marine can relate.
Having grown up in Pomona, Calif., Lance Cpl. Yesenia Rios had a plan in mind. And it wasn't the Marine Corps. However, being the eldest daughter in a family of five, Rios could already appreciate the true meaning of family.
“It was a fun loving environment,” said Rios. “We get along really well and are always there for each other.”
Growing up in a rough city, Rios made sure to take care of her younger siblings. Her brother Gerardo, 12-years-old, and Viviana, 5-years-old, had a lot of fun growing up with their big sister; with soccer always being the greatest source of entertainment.
“In High School, I was into marching band and soccer,” said Rios, recalling her years at Garey High School. “I also did one year of JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps) my freshman year.”
Rios had played soccer for over a dozen or so years, fully intending to make it a career and make a run at the international Mexican team. Unfortunately for her, after a career-ending knee injury threw her life's course out of alignment, Rios had to think of a contingency plan.
On a whim, Rios found herself at the Woodland Hills, Calif., Marine Corps recruiting station.
“It was right after my parents said they didn't want me playing college soccer that I was walking around the mall, walking into the recruiting station,” said Rios, now a Marine Aircraft Group 13 Headquarters supply clerk. “Talked to the recruiter - All the stuff he started talking about sounded really interesting.”
Then 17-years-old, Rios was intrigued most by the challenges the Corps offered. Physically and mentally, the toughest aspect of training suited her just fine. The opportunities offered by the Corps also left the door open for her to continue her athletic pursuits, particularly when it came to soccer.
“I went in as an open contract,” said Rios. “Two months after meeting my recruiter, I shipped.”
Rios' boot camp experience mirrors that of all Marines. Admittedly, her bearing could not hold up to the dark sense of humor Parris Island, S.C., had to offer. Through it all, she had no regrets of ever having stood on the yellow footprints to join November Company, Platoon 4006 through the three months of recruit training. She would graduate March 8, 2012.
“When I got back, I had talked to a couple of Marines from the recruiting station that were supply and they said it was pretty good, that the school house was pretty cool,” said Rios. “I went into school June and graduated in July, but then got sent to Camp Guard for two months.”
Initially, after learning what she would be doing and where she would be stationed, the young Marine wasn't sure exactly where Yuma was. Her roommate, Lance Cpl. Christine Keaney, a MAG-13 intelligence specialist and native of Braintree, Mass., recalls her first impression of Rios as someone who was quiet, but kind, motivated and game to whatever the Corps had to offer.
“She had some decorations and pictures up on her wall,” said Keaney. “She takes very good care of her cammies, she's never late for work, does great on her CFT and PFT.”
Rios encompasses a hard work ethic and easy going personality that translates into her Marine Corps career. A career she has many goals for; the focus of which has recently turned to a possible deployment.
“Being out, in-country, that's an experience I wouldn't want to be left out of,” said Rios, currently on a month long integrated training exercise at Camp Wilson at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. “I love it, getting to learn a lot of stuff I normally wouldn't get to learn in garrison. Going out in convoys, watching bombs drop, shooting a 50 cal., actually having to think of what to do – Not hesitating, all of this is a great learning experience.”
Currently, Rios is open to where her career goes. Goals like learning her MOS to the fullest are always in the making. Not 24-hours after earning a gray belt, Rios is already thinking about the next stage in her Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training.
“I want to pick up my green belt. I also want to pick rank up quick, not lose it,” said Rios. “By the end of my first enlistment, I'd like to be a sergeant by then.”
Trying to make sure her siblings Gerardo and Viviana have a good example in front of them is a trait that's parallel to what Rios would like to be true with her brothers and sisters in Yuma as well.
“What I look for in leaders? Just one that's professional, knows their job, isn't lazy, takes initiative, and is able to teach you,” said Rios. “The kind that, if you ask them something, they have an answer or will find an answer.”
Only a year in, Rios knows the long road she has ahead of her. A lot to learn and more goals to achieve. The fire and drive for one goal, that of earning the military occupational field of 0311 infantry, has recently been re-ignited.
“Eventually, I'd like to make an 0311 move,” said Rios. “What people think or what they say doesn't really bother me - I want to do it and I will.”