MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The crack and stir of gunfire filled the air at the Kilo 501 unknown distance range. Marines with Company C, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, fired their M4 Carbines and M249 Squad Automatic Weapons at popup targets as part of training for an upcoming deployment.
One Marine, however, stood apart from the rest, his quiet demeanor painted a strong contrast to the crackle of gunfire.
“He’s a great asset to the squad,” said Cpl. Brandon Ward, a squad leader with the company. “He listens, he’s motivated and he comprehends what I’m telling him.”
Private First Class Ian Campbell sat on the steel bleachers awaiting his chance to fire the M249 SAW. His youthful face told the story of his very young Marine Corps career, but his journey to become a Marine is a story unto itself.
Campbell grew up in the small town of Puyallup, Wash., where rainy clouds often fill the sky on a daily basis. Campbell could be seen hiking and camping in the lush forests and mountains nearby when the clouds cleared the way for the sun. He wrestled, played football and ran track throughout his time at Graham Kapowsin High School. His older sisters, who are five and six years older than him, enlisted in the Marine Corps, and that was all he needed to start the fire of competition.
“When my sisters joined, I said, ‘I can’t let them have all the fun,’” Campbell explained. “I joined because I’m competitive. I was never the fastest or the biggest – always the underdog. Joining the Marines would make me an alpha dog.”
Campbell’s enthusiasm to become a Marine led him to join the delayed entry program a year before he was eligible to enlist. Campbell was so determined, once he graduated high school in 2011, he was on his way to recruit training only four days later.
Campbell has trained as a combat engineer since graduating as a Marine from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif. He enjoys working with his hands and developing muscle memory, so training as an engineer was a perfect fit. Campbell learned wood and concrete construction as well as demolitions and improvised explosive devices, still the number one killer of NATO troops in Afghanistan.
“He progresses well,” explained Ward. “Whenever I tell him to do something, he does it. He asks a lot of questions, which is good for our job. That’s what I like about him – he really understands what’s going on.”
Campbell admits that in his nine months as a Marine, recruit training was his favorite experience even though he’s training for an upcoming deployment. “Boot camp is a bunch of things that you’ve never done before,” said Campbell. “It builds confidence.”
The training drew to a close as the Marines expended their final rounds and the crack of gunfire drifted off into the distance. This early in his first enlistment Campbell doesn’t know if he’s going to make the Marine Corps his career. He’s taking it day by day and he’s excited about what a future deployment will mean for him.