Drill Instructor discovers passion through Corps

Drill Instructor discovers passion through Corps

GySgt Carlos Campbell, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2149, Company G, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, gives words of encouragement to a recruit. Photo by Cpl Pedro Cardenas.

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (Oct. 3, 2013) - In the 1990's Michael Jordan was considered, by some, a legend and the NBA's best player. GySgt Carlos Campbell mirrored the way Jordan walked and played, but it was in the Marine Corps where he found his life fulfillment.

Campbell, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2149, Company G, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, grew up in Colon City, Panama without a father in a tough neighborhood. To keep away from trouble Campbell started playing basketball early in his childhood. It wasn't until age 14, when he moved to San Diego with his grandmother, that he began to develop a passion for the sport.

Campbell played at Sweetwater High School and was offered scholarships in 1992 to play at Boise State University, Ohio State University and New Mexico State University. But he turned it down for a chance to play in the Olympics against Michael Jordan by trying out for the Panamanian national team. Campbell made the cut, but, unfortunately was not given the opportunity to play against Jordan because of his youth.

In 1994, Campbell received a phone call from Rusty Smith, assistant basketball coach for Eastern Washington University, asking him to play basketball. While playing at EWU, Campbell's performance on the court declined due to lifestyle choices outside of basketball. After a year with EWU, Campbell quit basketball. He began a search somewhere else for life fulfillment.

Campbell applied for the San Diego Police Department and worked there, as a policeman, for approximately a year. He received his first dose of inspiration from detective Hector Hoyte, a former corporal in the Marine Corps, who became his mentor.

He left for Panama at his mother's request. Upon arrival, he applied for a federal police job. Within a week he was hired to protect the Panama Canal where he worked alongside U.S. Army soldiers. Campbell liked the way they spoke about the military life. He decided to make a special flight to Miami and speak to a recruiter.

Thinking back to his time at the SDPD, Campbell called his mentor for advice. Hoyte convinced Campbell to enlist in the Corps.

"I liked the way Marines carried themselves so I decided to become a Marine," said 42-year-old Campbell. "Hoyte said to me, ‘I was a Marine so you better follow in my footsteps.'"

Campbell headed to recruit training on June 29, 1999 at the age of 27. While in recruit training, his athleticism helped him excel and win the Iron Man an award given to the most physically fit Marine within his company based on their Physical Fitness Test score.

As a corporal, Campbell wanted to give back to the Marine Corps and decided to submit an application for drill instructor duty. However, in 2002 the Marine Corps instituted a policy where only the ranks of sergeant to gunnery sergeants were allowed to begin tours as drill instructors.

Upon reaching the rank of sergeant, Campbell was assigned to recruiting duty instead of drill instructor duty. This didn't stop him from excelling. He was meritoriously promoted to staff sergeant. However, his goal to become a drill instructor still lingered.

He applied again for drill instructor but his request was declined. For the third time during his deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, Campbell a gunnery sergeant, submitted another application, and was finally approved.

"It is a very important job (drill instructor) for the Marine Corps," said Campbell. "This is where it begins."

According to Campbell, he ranks drill instructor duty, as the most memorable moments of his life other than his basketball days.

"When I was playing basketball I could not find myself. I felt I could do better," said Campbell. "I want to help young Marines because every time a Marine gets in trouble I get sad; one mistake doesn't judge a life."

Campbell, inspired by SgtMaj Terrence C. Whitcomb, battalion sergeant major, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, wants to continue helping Marines as a first sergeant once his drill instructor tour ends. He wants to teach and guide young Marines; something he lacked growing up.

"He takes care of Marines and really cares about you," said Campbell of Whitcomb. "He came to see me when I was at the health clinic due to injury. That was the first time I experienced that in 14 years."

Campbell applies his past experiences to his current mission as a drill instructor. His goal is not only training basic Marines but also taking care of them as well.

"He is handling his team extremely well. He is always looking to bring the positive in his Marines," said GySgt Enrique Lopez, chief drill instructor. "He is wise and humbles himself to learn something new every day."

Campbell may have lost his path during his young basketball career but, he eventually found his true calling in the Marine Corps. It is through the Corps he has found his passion; mentoring, helping and giving others the guidance he never had, to uncover their potential.

"My biggest accomplishment in life is being the person I am today. Helping others, having the patience and discipline to finish what I start," said Campbell. "Going through the ranks, I've found out it's not about you, it's about the Marines you lead."

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