CAMP AL QA’IM, Iraq -- “I joined the Marine Corps to stay out of trouble. I’d be in a lot of trouble if I stayed in my hometown, but here I am in Iraq,” explained Lance Cpl. Robert E. James, III.
The 19-year-old Roanoke, Va., native was headed down the wrong path, hanging out with the wrong crowd and ruining any chance at a college scholarship along the way.
That was until James’ father, Michael, a former reconnaissance Marine, set him straight and made a suggestion that would change James’ life after graduating from high school.
“He told me since I didn’t have any scholarships that I should think about joining the Marine Corps, and obviously I took his suggestion,” explained the 2003 William Fleming High School graduate.
The former football punt-returner now helps run the supply warehouse for 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-2 in the western part of the Al Anbar province of Iraq, near the Syrian boarder.
As a warehouse man, James is responsible for gear issue and accountability for the entire battalion.
“When the convoys come in, I help off-load the convoy and make sure all the accounts are right in the warehouse. I issue out the gear, such as chemical lights and meals ready to eat for all the grunt companies when they go out to the field. We support the whole battalion,” he explained.
James recognizes the importance of his work here in Iraq and understands the big picture of what he does for the Marines.
“If it wasn’t for supply, people wouldn’t get things. They’d starve or die of thirst out in the field, and they wouldn’t have gear to survive out there, like flak jackets. We supply them with life saving gear,” he explained.
If a Marine’s gear is somehow destroyed or damaged, they bring the problem to James and the other warehouse clerks.
“They can bring in the unserviceable gear, and we’ll switch it out. It’s that simple,” he said.
According to his superiors, James knows his job and performs it very well.
“Lance Cpl. James is a really good Marine. He comes in, gets the job done with the least amount of headache possible. He knows that we have to support the battalion. He does really good work and it’s been a blessing working with these guys,” explained Staff Sgt. Donald R. Williams, the battalion supply chief.
Joining the Marine Corps and deploying to Iraq gives James a sense of appreciation for what he has back home and what he has accomplished so far in life.
“Being here is better than working at some grocery store, but I don’t really know- I can’t really explain how I feel about it. I know that I definitely appreciate what’s back in the states,” he explained. “I like the fact that I was able to get away from home and all of the foolish trouble. In the Corps I can travel and see the world for free.”