Face of Defense: Marine Becomes Jack of All Trades
By Marine Corps Cpl. Erik Villagran
Special to American Forces Press Service
HADITHA, Iraq, May 6, 2008 Marine Corps Cpl. Nicholas L. Szczerba has become a jack of all trades for Headquarters and Services Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5.
Marine Corps Cpl. Nicholas L. Szczerba, 22, a rifleman from Shingle Springs, Calif., assigned to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, saws through a piece of wood at Combat Outpost Haditha, Iraq, April 25, 2008. Szczerba has become a handyman for Headquarters and Services Company while deployed to Iraq. He has built multiple walls and doors, and installed air conditioning units in the living areas at the outpost. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Erik Villagran
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Szczerba, 22, a rifleman from Shingle Springs, Calif., has found himself filling multiple billets at Combat Outpost Haditha. He is the assistant camp commandant, police sergeant and a sergeant of the guard. He also helps with the supply drops and maintenance on the combat outpost.
“This COP would not function without Corporal Szczerba,” said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer 2 Frank R. Pater, the Headquarters and Services Company’s executive officer and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense officer, from Ellsworth, Ohio. “People fail to realize the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.”
Szczerba is the person Marines go to when they need help making anything. If he doesn’t build what they need himself, he provides them with the tools they need to complete the job.
Helping others with his knowledge in craftsmanship is nothing new to Szczerba. Before he joined the Marine Corps, he made mission trips with his church to other countries to build houses for the less fortunate.
“We put down the foundation, four walls and a roof,” Szczerba said. “It wasn’t anything too fancy, but it was better than what they had.”
Now, Szczerba is using his skills in construction around Combat Outpost Haditha. He has built walls and doors for a handful of living areas and installed air conditioning in berthing areas to improve the living conditions, all under the unforgiving sun of Iraq.
“It is Iraq, so it gets pretty hot outside,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Jeremy M. Wright, 24, a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear defense specialist with Headquarters Company from Cartersville, Ga. “He’s out there in the heat and sun for the majority of the day.”
He has a quiet humility about him and said he knows the feeling of accomplishment in knowing he is helping his fellow Marines. This is all Szczerba looks for from his work. He said he doesn’t look to garner praise for his labors.
“The work I do helps raise morale,” Szczerba said. “I like doing what I can to help people; I always have.”
Despite Szczerba’s modesty and efforts to hide from the spotlight, Marines on the outpost have taken notice of his work and initiative.
“The work he does is essential,” Wright said. “It improves the living conditions of every Marine on this COP. It’s work he does that helps keep this place running.”
(Marine Corps Cpl. Erik Villagran serves with Regimental Combat Team 5.)