Photo Information

An Afghan child watches as a squad of Marines patrol by the bazaar here May 3, 2012, on their way to the Afghan Uniformed Police precinct. Recently, 1st Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, has been tasked to mentor and provide support to the local Afghan Uniformed Police precinct in northern Marjah.

Photo by Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes

Junior Marines ready for more responsibilities in rifle platoon

8 May 2012 | Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes 1st Marine Division

Lance Cpl. Taylor Adkins has been a Marine for nearly a year and a half and is already taking advantage of leadership opportunities.

The 20-year-old rifleman said he knows that roles of being in charge of Marines or equipment isn’t something that’s handed out; rather it’s something Marines his rank are striving for.

He’s currently serving with 1st Platoon, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, in Marjah, Afghanistan, and Marines here are beginning to show excitement about the deployment’s upcoming culmination.

Some senior Marines serving in leadership positions in rifle platoons, mostly noncommissioned officers, said they’re ready for new duty assignments in the Marine Corps. Others say they’re ready to get back to the civilian world and go to college.

No matter where they go, Adkins said they’re mentoring when necessary and leaving behind opportunities for junior Marines to step up and take their place.

“We’re the ones who are going to be in charge one day,” said Adkins, a La Vernia, Texas, native. “So when it comes to a point where we have to deploy somewhere else again, we’ll be ready to take on leadership responsibilities.”

Adkins and his peers share arguably one of the toughest jobs in his squad. On a typical patrol, two to three Marines carry a Thor on their back, a 30-pound signal jammer that can disrupt a remote-controlled detonation of an improvised explosive device, while Adkins takes on the role as radio operator, carrying the 25-pound field radio.

On occasion, the platoon sergeant, Staff Sgt. Josef Vanhof, presents his junior Marines with more responsibilities, from taking charge of radio watch through the day, to commanding an armored vehicle in a convoy.

“Some of these junior guys can step up and do leadership-type roles,” said Vanhof, a Jacksonville, Fla., native. “If they do mess up, we can still guide them in the right direction and help them build on their abilities to become better leaders for another deployment.”

Recently, Adkins’ squad has been tasked to mentor and provide support to the local Afghan Uniformed Police precinct in northern Marjah. Usually it takes the Marines about an hour to get to the precinct on foot, speak to the police and inquire about their well being, and return to Camp Hanson. But on occasions the Marines have patrolled for nearly half a day, which necessitates carrying extra gear and equipment to last them 12 hours.

Adkins said the mission isn’t something he was expecting he’d be doing when he joined the Marine Corps. From working in produce at a grocery story as a teenager to lugging around expensive communications equipment during patrols in Afghanistan, the difference is a huge change for him. Nonetheless, he said he’s happy with the opportunities that he comes across along the deployment and he’s ready for more.

“He’s sort of the platoons communications guy even though he’s a rifleman,” said 1st Lt. Brian Anderson, the 1st Platoon commander. “He’s pretty savvy. He’s a rifleman who stepped up and filled in a position that he wasn’t really trained for.  But he took it upon himself to become knowledgeable in that.”

Adkins said thriving as a junior Marine is important to the Marine Corps as a whole. The sense of competing for leadership billets brings out the best in the Marines he serves with. His peers in his platoon also show initiative and the ability to carry more responsibility.

Anderson, a Lebanon, Pa., native, said Adkins has shown great qualities to be a small unit leader.

“He’s not a fire team leader, but he’s proven that he’s ready to step up and be a fire team leader and perhaps even more in the near future,” he said.

1st Marine Division