I was working full time. I
The funny thing is, I went to the
Air Force [recruiter] first. He actually kind of talked me out of the Air
Force. I had described what I wanted to do, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you
should try a different branch.’ The
Marine recruiter, I guess, overheard
that, and snatched me up on the
way out. A few days later, I was at
I wanted to do, not necessarily
special forces, but direct-action kind
of stuff. I enlisted in security forces
after that, infantry/security forces.
Chesapeake [Va.] was the school
for security forces, called BSG —
Basic Security Guard School. I was
part of a FAST team, the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team. I did it for
about three years. It was a pretty fun
job. You get a lot of training. You’re
basically a QRF, or a quick-reaction
force, for embassies and overseas national assets. You also do other stuff.
For example, we guard the fence
line in [Guantanamo Bay] Cuba. I
did that, and after that we went to
Bahrain. We were the QRF for CENT-COM [Central Command]. It was
fun, probably one of the highlights of
my Marine Corps career. You work
with a lot of countries’ militaries.
The FAST team is structured very
differently than the rest of the
Marine Corps. You pretty much
operate as a platoon. You deploy as a
platoon. Everything is platoon oriented. Once you form a platoon, you
do all of your deployments together.
It’s kind of nice, the small structure. Initially, I was a SAW [squad
automatic weapon] gunner and
then got bumped up to team leader
and stayed a team leader until just
before the end. Right before we
left, I became a platoon guide for
our replacement platoon.
At 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance [LAR] Battalion at Camp
Pendleton, Calif., I was a chief scout,
which is like a squad leader. I did a
deployment to Afghanistan and lateral moved after that. That was my
first time in a combat zone. It was
what you really expect as a Marine.
We got there in November
, so the fighting was pretty
much over with because they don’t
fight as much in the winter. A few
IEDs [improvised explosive devices]
here and there, a lot of drug interdiction as well. We destroyed a lot of
hashish. Then spring rolled around.
That’s when they start growing
poppy and they start getting protective. That’s their cash crop, so a lot
more action. That’s fighting season.
LAR, because they operate out of
vehicles, is considered a forward
element. You pretty much live out
of the vehicles. Normally, you’d be
outside the wire for about 30 days
at a time, coming back to resupply
for food and fuel and water.
I came back to Camp Pendleton
and I lat-moved to UAS operator.
There were a lot of things I was considering. I wanted to settle into
something that was the complete
opposite of what I was doing. Being
the UAS operator, being the intelligence [platform], I could have that
perspective since I was on the
ground and know what to look for
in indicators. I figured I could help
out that way. The unit I am in right
now, VMU- 1, actually was supporting us while I was [in Afghanistan].
The school is in Fort Huachuca,
Ariz. It’s a few months long. After
that, I went to the unit [in February
2014] and got qualified. The program that we fly — the RQ-7B
Shadow — is an Army program.
The Marine Corps doesn’t own it, so
we don’t have our own school for it.
It’s like learning something one way,
and you go somewhere else and you
have to completely relearn it a different way.
I went from being unqualified to
being an instructor within about
four months. Most guys will do an
entire enlistment and not be an
instructor. I’d like to think I did all
right. I have a lot of responsibilities
right now. I’m an aircrew training
chief, so I’m in charge of managing
all the performance records for all
the operators and mission commanders. It’s a staff NCO [noncom-missioned officer] billet.
Sgt. Joshua Kern
UNMANNED SYSTEMS OPERATOR
MARINE UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLE SQUADRON 1 (VMU- 1)
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION, YUMA, ARIZ.
PROFILES IN SERVICE
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