ASP WOLF, AL ANBAR, IRAQ -- ‘Sir, Yes Sir; Sir, No Sir’ are usually the words every Marine remembers speaking to their drill instructor during recruit training. By the end of training, some admire their drill instructors, some even idolize them with hopes to follow in their footsteps.
Staff Sgt. Steve Valencia, the security platoon’s platoon sergeant at Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) Wolf, found himself following in exactly that cycle, by becoming a drill instructor and training future Marines. Now that he is deployed, he’s seeing what became of his recruits in the fleet.
Valencia, a Bronx, N.Y., native and 1996 graduate of Longwood High School, joined the Marine Corps a year after his receiving his diploma hoping to make a better life for himself by escaping the fast paced urban city life of his youth.
"I decided I needed to do something with my life,” said the 27-year-old former two-time all-county football player. “I wanted to get away from the street life before it was too late and something bad happened.”
Valencia attended basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. shortly after speaking to a local recruiter. It was there that he came to have a deep respect for his drill instructors, a significant factor that would influence his decision to become one later.
After completing basic training, he deployed to Vietnam as part of Joint Task Force – Full Accounting to help uncover and return the remains of service members missing in action.
“That was a very humbling experience,” Valencia said. “We returned several members remains to their families. I’m glad I was there to help bring peace to their families.”
For the next several years of his career he continued to deploy to different parts of Asia. He even helped test new radio systems for the Marine Corps, but he still felt a strong need to do more for his service.
“Since boot camp I wanted to go to the drill field,” said an enthusiastic Valencia. “I had staff non-commissioned officers who were from the drill field who would always talk about their experiences.”
“I remembered boot camp and how much the drill instructors influenced me. I knew that I wanted…no, needed to be a drill instructor,” said Valencia with a big smile.
He graduated from Drill Instructor School in 2003 and became a “Hat” with 2d Battalion on Parris Island.
“It was an honor to wear that campaign cover,” Valencia paused, “but the best part was to see the transformation of the recruits into Marines. That’s when you know you’ve made a difference.”
His greatest achievement on the drill field came during his second cycle when his platoon tied the recruiting depot’s high score for final drill with a 97 out of a possible 100 points.
“I felt we had done really well. But it was a shock to me when they showed me the score and I didn’t really know what to think.”
After his time as a drill instructor, he was assigned to Regimental Combat Team-2 and deployed to Iraq in late February.
“When I got here I saw some of my former recruits,” said Valencia proudly. “I knew by seeing them that I had really done my part not only for the Marine Corps but also for the war on terrorism.”
While Valencia’s time in the service will be at an end after this deployment, he still remembers his time on the drill field as his best.
“The greatest achievement was that I got to be a part of some Marines’ history in the Corps,” said Valencia.