Winger to grunt:Sergeant drops wrench, picks up rifle, fulfills career ambition as infantryman

“Who here really wants to be at Marine Combat Training?” asked an MCT instructor to his students.

“I do sergeant,” said a private. “This is infantry training.”

“Are you serious,” the sergeant said laughing. “If you are really interested in the infantry, you should switch over to Infantry Training Battalion.”

Fifteen minutes later, the young devil dog is standing in front of the commanding officer with a request to switch to the infantry.

“Son, you are telling me that you would rather miss out on a possible $60,000 a year job coming out of the aviation side of the Marine Corps to give it all away and go into the infantry,” said the commanding officer.

“That’s correct, sir.”

“Get out of my office,” the commanding officer replied.

“Roger that, sir,” said the young Marine with an about face.

Six years later …

Despite his failed attempt earlier in his career, Sgt. Kristopher R. Poole has finally achieved his dream by laterally moving into the military occupational specialty field of 0311 – rifleman.

“It was like, I’m finally home, kind of like a big welcoming committee,” said Poole, who sports a drill instructor high and tight. “The whole mentality of it is awesome, it’s like I have other people who think like me.”

Poole, who joined the Marine Corps during 2001, was triggered to enlist after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A week after the attacks, he was on the phone with a Marine Corps recruiter.

“I made a promise to myself when I was a young kid during the Gulf War that if I was ever of age and we ever went to war again, I was going to join the Marine Corps,” said the Midland, Texas, native.

While working in the Marine Corps for six years as a CH-46 helicopter mechanic, Poole never really felt totally satisfied, but he still did the best he could. The 5-foot-9-inch Marine deployed once to Okinawa, Japan, and twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“This is rocket science, so to speak,” said Poole with a loud voice. “I couldn’t work under the hood of my car before I joined the Marine Corps, but now I can build a jet engine.”

As a mechanic in the aircraft wing, Poole quickly gained respect from his fellow Marines. He lives by the motto, “Respect is the hardest thing to gain, but the easiest thing to lose.”

“He is extremely motivated and has respect from everyone,” said Sgt. Frank J. Depalma, a tank technician with Company F, 4th Tank Battalion, 4th Marine Division, and who previously worked with Poole at Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 29 as a CH-46 helicopter mechanic. “He would always stop and take his time to sit down with anybody and help them out personally or professionally. That’s just the way he is.”

Even while turning wrenches in the Wing, he always had a love for the ground side of the Corps. From conducting an above standard level of physical training to asking his Marines questions ranging from land navigation to weapons systems, his heart has always been for the Marines on the ground.

“My mind set wasn’t always aviation, it was the ‘whole package’ as a Marine. I didn’t want to be just a ‘maintenance Marine,’” said the rifle expert. “I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my passion.”

Poole graduated from ITB April 1, and is scheduled to report to 3rd Bn., 9th Marine Regiment, when it activates in May. His ITB instructors said that even though he is a senior sergeant coming from the Wing, he has the perseverance and dedication to lead Marines well in the infantry.

“He is highly motivated and was excited about training,” said Sgt. Matthew D. Ayers, Company D, ITB, instructor. “He made my job easy by having a sergeant in a platoon of privates. It was almost like having another instructor around.

“He has a lot of experience under his belt and he’s going to bring a lot to the table in his new unit,” added Ayers, a native of Alexandria, Va. “There’s no reason why he won’t go straight to a squad leader’s billet.”

Poole, a career Marine planning on serving 20 to 30 years in the Corps, said his favorite part about the “gun club” is the camaraderie and brotherhood.

“You don’t have to know a Marine to know he is a Marine. You can tell by the way he walks, by the way he talks, and by the way he presents himself in the room,” said Poole, who runs a perfect physical fitness test.

“You could be a thousand miles away from any military base and as a Marine you can spot another Marine and what’s the first thing you do?” he asked. “Buy him a beer. Who else does that? We are the biggest and the oldest fraternity in the world.”

Poole lives and follows the words he has tattooed on his side, “For those who lived the good life, those who fought the good fight and those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, you will never be forgotten. Semper Fidelis.”

“That’s for my brothers. That’s not for me,” said the 155-pound Marine. “We honor the fallen, we honor the past, present and the future. We honor them all.

“We’re a band of brothers, it’s not just some movie title, it’s the truth,” added the motivated sergeant.

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