AR RAMADI, Iraq -- For many, getting a four-year degree from a college or university is the path to accomplishing their career goals. However, for a number of people, the cost of attending those schools is prohibitive. Pfc. David Shellito Jr., found a way to pay for his school, as well as gain valuable leadership skills when he joined the Marine Corps.
The Edgewood, Iowa, native chose the Marine Corps when he decided to attend college, but still needed time to decide on what career path he would take.
“I joined to get help paying for college,” said the Edgewood-Colesburg High School graduate. “I knew I wanted to go to college, but I was unsure about what I really wanted to do, what to get my degree in.”
Figuring four years in the Marine Corps would teach him invaluable leadership and technical skills, Shellito enlisted to become an infantryman.
“When you think of Marines, you think of infantrymen fighting and winning wars,” the 18-year-old said. “I wanted to be a part of that, part of the backbone of the Corps.”
He began recruit training Sept. 7, 2004, and soon graduated from the School of Infantry as a machine gunner. Shellito then transferred to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif.
“Honestly, when I first got orders to Twenty-nine Palms, I was disappointed,” he said. “A lot of people said it was bad, but once I got there, I liked it. The training you get there is the best. I feel very prepared for this deployment.”
The training was long and intense. In addition to normal training in their job areas, his unit cross-trained and learned what other members of their teams do, in case of an accident or emergency.
“We did a lot of (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training, clearing houses along with a lot of platoon and squad sized missions,” he said. “Weather was a big factor there too. We trained in the desert of California and it made us ready for what we would face here.
“Overall, I feel like I am very ready, very prepared. So far there hasn’t been anything that has happened where I’ve felt lost and not known what to do.”
When his unit first got the order that they were going to deploy to Iraq, Shellito took the news somberly. However, since arriving in Iraq, he is now excited to be serving his country in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he said.
“Initially, I didn’t want to go, but as the deployment got closer, I was excited and felt prepared to deploy,” he said. “I wasn’t scared at all.”
Looking back now, Shellito is glad he made the decision to join the Marine Corps, and is even glad that his unit was chosen to make the deployment to Iraq.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I’m satisfied with my decision. I don’t regret it at all.”