CAMP RAMADI, Iraq -- Macario Ruiz spent most of his teen years doing bodywork on cars. He polished them to perfection and took great pride in his work. It was a hobby that helped to focus his dream of someday driving in a plush, custom-built car. Little did he know then, that the Marine Corps would someday make that dream come true.
Years later, Sgt. Ruiz turned heads as he rolled down the strip in the Floridian getaways of Panama City, Daytona Beach and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He was paid to drive the Marines’ candy red humvee to beachside recruiting events to attract the copper-toned college students on spring break. As a motor transportation operator, Ruiz has been living life in the fast lane.
The 29-year-old Ruiz finally traded that lustrous red humvee in for an olive-drab armored one. And the strip he cruises is one of the most dangerous in Iraq’s infamous Sunni Triangle, festering with insurgent activity. It’s a fair trade though, according to Ruiz, who believes being in the fight is the place to be.
Ruiz deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom earlier this year with his unit, Truck Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. The 1994 Skyline High School graduate heads a platoon of Marines who work day-in and day-out to provide support to units within the division.
His work takes him to some of the most inhospitable areas in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq, his unit’s area of responsibility. But that’s why Ruiz joined the Marines.
Ruiz said, “My unit called me up one day and said, ‘Pack your bags, you’re going to Iraq.’ So, here I am.”
“My junior Marines have been here a lot longer than I have – some of them are on their second tours here. All I know about this place I owe to them. I have a great crew.”
Though it’s his first tour in Iraq, it’s not his first time in a combat zone. Ruiz supported the emergence of East Timor as an independent nation. He participated in the humanitarian assistance mission with his former unit, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), to bring peace and stability to the nation that rose from the ashes.
“It doesn’t matter where you work,” said Ruiz. “You just have to adapt quickly to whatever environment you’re in. That’s why I’m choosing a new profession. Computers are the wave of the future.”
Ruiz is going from behind the wheel to behind the screen. He realizes opportunity when it shows itself and he’s going to make the best of the college education money the Corps has to offer.
Using the Montgomery G. I. Bill, Ruiz intends to learn as much as he can in the emerging technology sector.
“This is all I know,” said Ruiz, referring to his current responsibilities. “I’ve been doing it all of my life and don’t get me wrong I love it, but I want to explore my options.
“But no matter what job I have, I’ll always take care of my guys. Because that’s what this is all about.”