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Master Sgt. Michael L. Stephens, communications chief for 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, demonstrates a solid combination of blows to an opponent during a daily boxing lesson at Camp Korean Village, Iraq, April 21. Stephens, 47, has served 28 years in the military, 22 with the Marine Corps, and is now on his second tour in Iraq.

Photo by Cpl. Ryan Tomlinson

A born military man

24 Apr 2008 | Cpl Ryan Tomlinson

Countryman, boxer and family man are all words to describe Master Sgt. Michael L. Stephens, 47, communications chief for 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, who has served close to 30 years in the military in three different branches.

“When I was young, I always wanted to join some sort of military,” said Stephens. “I grew up playing with GI Joes and when all of my friends graduated and went in to the military, I decided to do the same thing.”

Stephens’ 28-year journey began when he joined the Army in 1979 when he checked in for boot camp at Fort Jackson, Columbia, S.C. He graduated and achieved the military occupational specialty of field wireman at Fort Gordon, Ga.

He served four years on active duty before he transferred over to the Army National Guard in 1983.  He moved back to Miami with his mother to find a part time job to support himself. Stephens found that he was struggling to find a steady job and knew action had to be taken.

“I was in a transition and nothing was opening up for me to get started,” Stephens said. “I knew a friend in the Air Force National Guard that liked it. I decided to give it a try.”

He talked to a USAF recruiter the next day. By joining the Air Force National Guard with an open contract, Stephens was able to keep his military pay grade of E-4.

Stephens became an aircraft ammunitions loader and moved to Denver to work out of Lowry Air Force Base.

“I was working part time as a switch board operator and a security guard in Denver to support myself when I wasn’t on duty,” said Stephens. “One day I saw a commercial of a guy in the dress blues, and I thought to myself, I would look sharp in that uniform.”

After two and a half years in the Air National Guard, Stephens called a recruiter to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

In the Marine Corps, when Marines join from another service, they usually lose rank. However, Stephens was able to retain his present rank and became a corporal in the Marine Corps.

“I chose to go to boot camp to prove to myself that I had what it takes to be a Marine,” said Stephens, who is from Monticello, N.Y. “I flew through the other services and really wanted a challenge, because I love challenges.”

After bouncing around between other services, Stephens finally found his niche with the Marine Corps.

“He is a man of some great depth, to be in three different services and to be in as long as he has,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph F. Gilliam, 37, admin chief for 2nd LAR from Columbia, S.C.

The leader of Marines can now be found training Marines in his hobby: boxing. He spends his nights teaching the skills he has learned for the past eight years.

“I love training Marines in what I love to do most, fight,” said Stephens, who won a Golden Glove title in Upstate New York. “It is the most rewarding experience.”

Stephens plans on retiring when he reaches 30 years of service to spend time with his wife, four children and five grandchildren.

“I want to look back on my career and know I did something great for my country,” he said. “I also wanted to do something to make my parents really proud of me.”