Face of Defense: Marine Keeps Vehicles Rolling
By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Luis R. Agostini
Special to American Forces Press Service
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2009 Within a week of arriving here, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gary Mishoe is preparing his motor pool for his unit’s takeover of counterinsurgency operations in the province.
From preventive maintenance to headlight and tire checks on the unit’s Humvees and 7-ton trucks, Mishoe works to ensure his fellow Marines will have safe and operable vehicles throughout their deployment.
Mishoe, a 27-year-old Marine from Virginia Beach, Va., is deployed as a motor transport operator with Regimental Combat Team 7, which will conduct counterinsurgency operations in support of Afghan forces throughout the province.
But his path from Virginia Beach to Afghanistan was not a simple high school-to-boot camp route.
Within a year of graduating from high school in 2002, Mishoe secured a spot on the assembly line at a car assembly plant in Norfolk, Va. His job was simple: assemble drive shafts. The task earned him about $75,000 a year. Life was good.
“I felt very secure. I had a good job, an apartment, bought a new car and had a family,” Mishoe said. “I thought I was going to retire there.” But four years later, the assembly plant couldn’t survive a weakened economy and its effect on the auto industry. He received three months notice that the plant was shutting down.
“I got a $100,000 severance package. But I still needed a job,” said Mishoe, who had a wife, toddler and baby on the way.
The Virginian’s life revolved around the auto industry as far back as he can remember. His mother had worked at the same assembly line 10 years earlier.
“When I was in high school, I would wash some of my mom’s co-worker’s cars. I was a kid, washing these people’s cars, and then I found myself working right next to them on the assembly line,” he said.
Following the layoff, Mishoe traveled up and down the East Coast, securing modeling gigs at New York fashion shows, and eventually following his wife to Atlanta. It was there that he decided to accept a commitment he’s always had on his mind: to enlist as a U.S. Marine. He knew the challenge ahead.
“I knew it was going to be hard,” he said. “I knew I had to work for it. But I was willing to do it.”
Mishoe knew he was enlisting in a wartime Marine Corps, and was fully aware of the chance that he may deploy to either Iraq or Afghanistan.
“I wanted to come out here and do what Marines do,” he said. “I’ve been training since boot camp to do this, and here I am.”
Mishoe enlisted Aug. 11, 2007, and after graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., he completed follow-on training at Camp Geiger, N.C., and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where he learned how to become a motor transport operator.
“Working for Ford was tougher, not because of the job itself, but because of the lack of a team attitude. I was doing the job by myself,” he said. “There’s a lot more pride in the Marine Corps. If you’re struggling, there’s always someone to help. There’s always that team spirit.”
Mishoe looks forward to heading out of the forward operating base and into the country roads, driving convoys and leading Marines.
“I want to learn about the Afghan culture, what they’ve been through,” he said. “I believe that we are helping them in a turning point in their civilization. It’s good that we are here.”
He also hopes to do some soul-searching.
“The Marine Corps has helped me become a better father, husband and person,” he said. “Now, I want to learn about myself, about my limits,” he said.
After completing his yearlong deployment, Mishoe said, he hopes to secure a spot at the Marine Inspector/Instructor staff at Chesapeake, Va., about 15 miles from the Ford plant where he used to work. The days of the lucrative assembly line are a distant memory, and the plant’s closing may have been a blessing in disguise.
“I’m thinking about the here and now, and the future,” Mishoe said. “My prayers were answered. I got what I wanted. I’m a Marine.”
(Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Luis R. Agostini serves with Regimental Combat Team 7.)