Face of Defense: Marine Emerges as Leader
By Marine Corps Cpl. Juan D. Alfonso
Marine Forces Pacific
CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, Sept. 23, 2010 Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin A. Aguilar has wanted to be a Marine almost for as long as he can remember.
Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin A. Aguilar conducts Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training with his Marines on a regular basis. In addition to his military occupational duties, Aguilar serves as a suicide prevention instructor trainer, Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor and Mentors in Violence Prevention instructor. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Juan D. Alfonso
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I used to watch war movies instead of cartoons when I was a kid,” the California native said. “When I was 7 years old, I saw a Marine color guard for the first time. They all looked so proud in their uniforms. Since then, my dream has always been to be a Marine.”
He planned to enlist after high school, he said, but life threw him a curve ball. At 18, with a child on the way, Aguilar decided being a father was more important than following his dream. But five years later, his family rewarded him for his dedication by bringing the Corps to him.
“It was my wife who called the recruiter,” he said. “At the time, I didn’t know they accepted anyone who wasn’t 18. I honestly thought I was too old to join. But my wife pushed me to follow my dream, and I signed up to be an infantryman.”
But the infantry was full at the time, and there was a nine-month wait before it would open again. Aguilar had to find an alternative. His recruiter suggested motor transportation, and Aguilar seized the opportunity to become a Marine.
In January 2005, he shipped to basic training in San Diego, and then he attended Marine combat training.
But once he arrived at his motor transportation school, Aguilar said, he was disappointed.
“I thought I was going to be rolling around in … Humvees with .50 [caliber machine guns],” he said. “When I found out I was going to be driving [5-ton trucks], I was not too happy.”
But Aguilar never forgot why he joined; he wanted to fight for his country. He graduated from his school and finally received the break he’d been waiting for. He was assigned to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
“They assigned me to 1st Tank Battalion,” he said. “It was a combat unit. I automatically took a lot of pride in that. It was what I joined for. I was overjoyed my dream was coming true.”
Aguilar deployed to Iraq in 2007, but in the interim, he said, he needed to challenge himself. During a time when many Marines weren’t interested in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, Aguilar took it upon himself to become a martial arts instructor in 2006.
“I have a saying: ‘Do something challenging at least once a year,’” he said. “In 2005, that was boot camp. I deployed to Iraq in 2007. So in 2006, I saw that the battalion only had one [martial arts] instructor. So I chose to become one myself. It challenged me to be physically fit. I became more confident, and I trained dozens of Marines. I loved it.”
During his time in Iraq, Aguilar and his platoon conducted dozens of combat missions, and the young Marine and earned a reputation for being trustworthy and dependable. His reputation followed him back to Twentynine Palms. In October 2008, Aguilar was promoted to his current rank and was made a convoy leader for an exercise.
Challenged with a position typically reserved for staff noncommissioned officers and senior sergeants, Aguilar proved his worth by conducting the 30-day exercise with zero incidents while in charge of more than 80 Marines.
Two months later, he was transferred to Hawaii and assigned to Headquarters and Service Battalion, Marine Forces Pacific, to work as the dispatching and licensing noncommissioned officer in charge. Aguilar said he realized he was being sent to a nondeployable unit, but that he took the assignment to give back to those who gave up so much for his dream.
“I look at it as a little payback to my family,” Aguilar said. “They gave up a lot so I could be a Marine. They put up with me being gone for training, a combat tour, exercises, you name it. I got to bring them out to Hawaii for everything they’ve done for me.”
Despite his “desk job,” Aguilar is far from complacent. He mentors his Marines, is active in their lives and continues to serve as a martial arts instructor.
“He’s a stellar sergeant of Marines,” said Cpl. James Moore, a motor transportation Marine. “I’ve been in for almost five and a half years. I’ve seen my fair share of sergeants who just go through the motions, but I know that I can take a problem to Sergeant Aguilar and guarantee that it gets done.”.
Moore recalled an example of Aguilar’s leadership. “I had to go on emergency leave once, and I couldn’t find the number to the Red Cross,” he said. “Five seconds after I told him, he had the number for me. That’s the kind of sergeant he is.”.
Aguilar’s dependability has been noticed throughout the command. In addition to his job and the time he puts in as an instructor, the command has given him additional duties reserved for only the most mature and dependable Marines: suicide prevention instructor trainer and Mentors in Violence Prevention instructor..
“He’s an extremely dependable sergeant,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Trinity A. Lizalde, battalion embark chief. “It’s just Aguilar. If you work with him, you know things are going to get done. He’s exactly what a sergeant of Marines should be.”.
Aguilar and his family are scheduled to leave Hawaii in December. He hopes to become a drill instructor..
“The next couple of years aren’t going to be a vacation,” he said. “But it’s time I give back to the Marine Corps for what it’s given me.”