MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - -- Finding one’s path in life isn’t an exact science. For those who’ve known since they were little, the choice is easy. But for the rest who aren’t 100 percent sure, trial and error seems the way to find out.
For Sgt. Timothy E. White, a field radio operator with Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, his plans for life after high school weren’t set in stone.
“I went to junior college for about a year, but after my $500 scholarship ran out, I couldn’t afford to continue and had to drop-out,” White said. “To support myself, I did everything from DJing at a radio station to working as a mechanic at a gas station.”
The one thing he did know for sure was what he wasn’t going to do - join the military. For White, being the son of a Marine was quite enough.
“Growing up, I always told my dad I’d never join, not in a million years,” he said. “It’s not that I hated the Marine Corps, it just wasn’t for me.”
After ¬six years of working various odd jobs and doing the college thing, White, who was born at the Naval Hospital aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., finally realized what he was put here to do.
“I can’t really explain how or why,” White said, “but one day, completely out of the blue, it just hit me.”
In 1993, at the age of 24, White enlisted in the Marine Corps as an administrative clerk.
“I chose admin because it was more of a business type job,” he said. “If I ever decided to get out, I knew those skills would come in handy out in the civilian community.”
Ironically, eight years later in 2000, White decided to give his former life another go.
“I was getting bored,” he explained. “It wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I wanted something different.”
But, as the saying goes, history is destined to repeat itself.
“The job market was full and there really weren’t very many steady jobs out there,” White said. “I found myself working in the same dead-end jobs I had before the Marine Corps. Re-enlisting just made more sense.”
However, because his job field was closed out at the time, the career planner gave him a short list of military occupational specialties he could choose from. Field radio operator may not have been his first choice, but White doesn’t regret his decision for one second.
“Unlike admin, this job allows me to get out of the office and do more Marine-type stuff. It’s more of a variety than just sitting behind a desk.”
White also helped to teach a week-long series of classes to Headquarters Battalion in addition to his duties as the platoon sergeant for Radio Platoon.
“What if, while on patrol, your radio operator is injured by enemy small arms fire and needs immediate medical attention?” said the Huntsville, Ala., native. “Would you know how to make the call to save his life?”
The classes taught Marines how to send and receive messages, how to properly draft a message, proper radio procedures, how to operate the blue force tracker system and how to operate a PRC-119.
“Every Marine needs at least a basic understanding of how to work the radio,” White said. “After taking these classes, those who participated should be able to man the PRC-119 just as easily as they would their rifle.”
With only nine years left to go, White has decided to stay Marine and retire after a full 20 years in the Corps. For someone who said he would never wear the eagle, globe and anchor, it’s funny how things have turned out.
“The benefits are great, the pay is steady, and after 11 years of getting used to the lifestyle, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”