Bronx Native Overcomes Adversity, Sets the Standard

Bronx Native Overcomes Adversity, Sets the Standard

Sgt. Sergio Castro poses with four of his poolees from Ferris High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, Jan. 21. Poolees are men and women that have decided to take the oath to become an Untied States Marine but that have yet to attend Marine Corps Recruit Training and earn the title of ‘Marine.' Castro is a canvassing recruiter with Marine Corps Recruiting Substation Elizabeth and is responsible for finding young men and women interested in serving their country. Photo by Sgt. Samuel A. Nasso.

COLTS NECK, N.J. (Feb. 6, 2015) – Young men and women join the United States military for varying reasons; whether it is for the pride of belonging, the daily challenge, or to simply defend their country. The daily challenge consists of mental and physical tests that begin on day one of Marine Corps Recruit Training and continue to the last day before a Marine retires. 

For Sgt Sergio Castro, a 25-year-old Bronx native and canvassing recruiter for Marine Corps Recruiting Substation Jersey City, the idea that he would be pushed to maximize his potential everyday captured his interest and the rest is history. 

"I noticed the sacrifice my neighbor made when he joined the Marines following the attacks on the Twin Towers," said Castro reflecting on what inspired him to join. "He eventually deployed and it was through his heroic and valiant actions that inspired me to join and emulate his example."

Castro is one of approximately 75 recruiters in New Jersey that are responsible for finding the best and brightest young men and women capable and willing to become United States Marines. Castro set himself apart by exemplifying honor, courage, and commitment; the very traits he preaches to prospective applicants. 

"It is the best feeling to see a kid who didn't have any confidence, self-direction and sometimes even lack self-discipline and give them the opportunity to gain those skills through the Marine Corps," said Castro. 

He attributes his success as a recruiter to the mentors he has had along the way as well as his challenges he faced while growing up.

"I was the oldest of three boys in my family and growing up I noticed the sacrifice my parents made for us," stated Castro, a 2008 graduate of Roselle Park High School in Roselle Park, New Jersey. "This inspired me to become something in my life and to set the example for my little brothers."

After testing the job market following high school, Castro finally walked into a recruiter's office and made the commitment to become a Marine. 

Castro then shipped off to combat training in North Carolina for a month and then to his Military Occupational School where he completed all his training to become field radio operator. He was then assigned to his duty station at Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marines in Bristol, Pennsylvania. 

After three years of being in the reserves and working various civilian jobs his desire for challenge was not fulfilled, which led to his request to become a Marine Corps recruiter under the extended active duty policy.

"I just wanted more," Castro said. "I assisted my local recruiting station when I was a lance corporal and it was through this where I realized the difficulty associated with recruiting and I wanted that challenge."

In 2012, after completing three months of recruiter's school in San Diego, California, Castro switched from his role as a reservist to an active-duty position recruiter. Castro reported to Elizabeth, New Jersey, poised and ready for the challenge that a waited. 

"The balance of recruiting duty is what challenges most new recruiters," says GySgt Michael Diaz, Castro's former supervisor and mentor. "There are variables that constantly change and when you work 16 hours a day and are away from your family, it's a tough situation."

According to Castro it has not been easy, but necessary. "As a new Marine recruiter balancing my time between the long hours of recruiting duty, being a husband and father, and spending time away from home is a very difficult task to handle," Castro said. "The Marine Corps taught me to adapt and overcome and that's exactly what I've done. My family has done nothing but support me and that has been an integral and key factor in my success."

Over the past 12 months, Castro contracted 32 young men and women and 20 of which, have already shipped to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Training in Parris Island, South Carolina. These 32 were added to his current total of 65 individuals who are either Marines already or on their path to becoming Marines. Because of his incredible achievement in the past 12 months, Castro was recognized as the 2014 Recruiter of the Year for RS New Jersey. 

"The quality and quantity of individuals he recruited made him the clear statistical winner for Recruiter of the Year honors," said Maj. John F. Campbell, the commanding officer of RS New Jersey. "Sgt. Castro's infectious enthusiasm and ability to connect with anyone set him apart." 

Castro asserts that the best part of being a recruiter is that he possesses the ability to change someone's life and to see him or her once they return, according to Campbell. They come back standing taller and appear more prideful.

Known as "Smiley" across the unit, his peers view Castro as one of the more genuinely positive people they have encountered. Don't let this fool you; says his former boss; what flies under the radar is his work ethic and character.

"He is hands down the hardest worker I have worked with" said Diaz. "He never brings emotions to work and is always happy and motivated no matter what the mission at hand is. He treats his applicants as if they are family and believes in everything the Marine Corps stands for."

Castro's new supervisor, Staff Sgt. Nathanial Baker, attributes Castro's success to his selflessness. 

"He genuinely cares about the Marine Corps and its future," Baker said. "He's always committed. This duty is rigorous and constant, so to be successful you have to be on top of your game at all times. His positive mental attitude fuels a positive work environment in our office and that is imperative."

As Castro's recruiting career approaches the end, his legacy will resonate through the countless individuals that he has impacted. The torch will now be passed on to the new Marine recruiter that will face the same challenges. Castro's advice is simple, be yourself and be honest. 

"If you be yourself and have a positive attitude the men and women will confide in you and will want to emulate you," said Castro with a smile.

Although the future remains unclear for Castro he knows one thing for sure; that his experience as a Marine has prepared him for any challenge.

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