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Sergeant Justin Burkett, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, beat out keen competition at a meritorious sergeant board to earn his current rank. Burkett now uses his experience to prepare Marines in his section for successful careers.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Juan Vara

CBRN Marine motivates juniors to excel, passes on knowledge

25 Nov 2008 | Cpl. Joshua Murray

While thoroughly preparing a lance corporal for an upcoming meritorious board, Sgt. Justin Burkett meticulously looked over the Marine’s uniform and passed on tips and tricks he used to get where he’s now.

A chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, Burkett won a meritorious sergeant board here Oct. 24.  He partially accredits his achievement to his organized and disciplined childhood.

“I was raised in a very structured environment,” he said. “It’s something I have at home and something I really appreciate.”

For service members’ youngsters, childhood may not always be the easiest or most enjoyable experience.  The military requires individuals to switch locations frequently and wherever they go, their families stand alongside.

Burkett began his life journey in Tyler, Texas, and soon after his birth his father began a nine-year stint in the U.S. Navy.  Four relocations and many years passed until Burkett found himself back in Texas, attending Abilene Christian University.  Work and school were his main priorities, but he didn’t truly enjoy the lifestyle he was leading.

“It takes more than money to motivate me,” said Burkett, referring to his job working at a car dealership.  “The money was good but I was tired of not being happy with the work I was doing.  You don’t get a chance to build relationships with the people you work with.”

In search for his niche in society he decided the Marine Corps would be a good fit.

“After I joined the Marine Corps I was much more satisfied,” said Burkett with a smile on his face. “The standards and our way of life as Marines is something I try to surround myself with.”

When the company leaders began looking for Marines to compete in a meritorious sergeant board, Burkett’s leadership decided he would be the one to represent their section.

Generally 15 Marines compete for a meritorious promotion at the company level.  After a detailed review of the Marines’ service record book, five move on to compete at battalion level.

“The day began with a PFT (physical fitness test), and a uniform inspection afterward,” he said. “I also had to drill a platoon of twenty-one Marines.”

Sgt. Maj. Robert Beith, battalion sergeant major, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, resides on the board alongside the company first sergeants.

“Bearing is the number one thing,” said the Helena, Ark., native.       “Everything we do we look for attention to detail and bearing.  If you lose your bearing you lose all credibility.”

A question and answer portion based on common Marine Corps basic knowledge questions followed the PFT, uniform inspections and close order drill examinations.

“It’s strictly basic skills test questions,” Beith said, referring to an examination Marines are required to pass annually.  “I will ask one opinionated question as well.  Give an answer and be confident.  Marines always get nervous in front of the board, but I always tell them to relax and just answer the questions.”

Following the questions the Marines competing waited for the board members’ decision.  At the announcement of the winner, Burkett was momentarily disappointed with the results.

“I’ll tell ya what, when they announced my name it took me about two seconds to realize they pronounced it wrong,” Burkett said. “I can’t explain how excited I was.”

Burkett, who beat out keen competition to earn his current rank, uses his experience to prepare the Marines in his section.  Mapping out his future success, he wants to re-enlist and transfer to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., to teach the up and coming CBRN defense specialists.