When he was growing up in Texas, Robert Settle heard about his grandfather's experiences as a sergeant in the Marine Corps. Right after the events of 9/11, Robert decided that joining the Marine Corps and following his grandfather's path would be the best way to serve his country.
"The Marine Corps is a brotherhood, and that's what it really is. There's a misconception through movies that the Marine Corps is this beast, where you're going to come in and you're going to get yelled at all the time. It's not just that. It's a job, but at the same time they teach you how to be a man."
After going to a Military Entrance Processing Station and enlisting in the Delayed Entry Program, Robert shipped to Recruit Training and went to school for air traffic control. While fulfilling his commitment in this position, he realized he wanted to change his Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) so he could work with amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs). He asked a career retention specialist about entering a new field, and the Marine Corps accommodated his new career goals.
"Once you re-enlist, you're allowed to 'laterally move' into a different MOS, as long as there is space for new Marines in that MOS."
The Marine Corps is a brotherhood.
Now an AAV crew chief, Robert is in charge of a three-man team. This team operates a 26-ton vehicle, which can hold around 22 service members. The AAV can travel from water to land in order to drop infantry onto a hostile shore, and it can cover almost any terrain, from sand to mountains.
Robert has many responsibilities in this role. He works with a complex vehicle, and he must help keep the other service members in the AAV safe. But he welcomes the challenge of maintaining the AAV and training others to do the same.
"There's one thing my colonel says to me: Horse, saddle, self. You take care of the thing you ride - your vehicle. Then you take care of the gear that you carry with you, and then you take care of yourself because, if you don't take care of the gear, it's not going to take care of you in battle."
Robert, who is based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, has deployed twice - once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, he helped train members of the Afghan National Army (ANA). During this time, Robert also lived next door to members of the ANA, and he got to know his Afghan counterparts.
"While I was training the Afghan army, I got close to a couple of the sergeants that were older than me. ... We would go have dinner with them and just hang out with them. They're people just like us. They just like to have fun."
While in Afghanistan, Robert helped deliver humanitarian assistance to children. Since Afghanistan can become extremely cold, children needed blankets, clothing, shoes and coats. Robert also distributed backpacks and pens to children who needed them for school.
"They cherish pens. Every time I go through a town, they're asking me for a pen. 'Mister, pen! Mister!' I'll pull out a pen and hand it to a kid, and then a whole mob of kids will come over. And it makes me happy. I just hand out all the pens I've got. I run out of stuff to give away, eventually."
Robert is proud of the abilities he has gained in the Marine Corps. After he fulfills his service commitment, he plans to combine these skills with his passion - cars. He is already planning to go back to school, enter the business world and launch a career in auto restoration and customization.
"The things the Marine Corps has taught me that could allow me to run a business would definitely have to be leadership, organization, attention to detail and, overall, how to be a responsible person."
No doubt Robert will work toward his latest career goals with the same amount of leadership, organization and attention to detail that he has shown while serving in the Marine Corps.