American Indian charts path of success in Corps
By Pfc. Ethan Hoaldridge
| | June 21, 2007
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii --
An estimated 3,000 American Indians of the Menominee tribe were killed nearly four centuries ago in years of fierce, bloody battles with the French – less than 400 survived. Those events caused this ancient tribe to latch onto the strong backboned tradition of courage and strength, still carried in the Menominee people today.
Cpl. Mitchell Oshkeshequoam, Menominee tribe member and MARFORPAC personnel security NCO, carried on that proud tradition by joining the Corps Oct. 26, 2005.
“My parents used to take me to powwows in honor of the Menominee that have fought for our country or are fighting right now,” said Oshkeshequoam, a Keshena, Wisc. native.
“Those powwows in honor of our veterans and Menominee that are serving in our military now taught me that it’s a very honorable thing to serve something bigger than yourself,” he said. “We’re all small cogs turning a bigger wheel.”
He lived on the Menominee Indian Reservation for the majority of his life and learned from and experienced his rich culture first-hand.
“I learned mental toughness and esprit de corps from boot camp, but I learned my morals and values from my people,” said Osh, as his friends call him.
“When I was growing up I was taught things like ‘a man who gives his best never regrets it,’” he said. “It was engrained in me to be honest and work hard if I want to make something bigger of myself.”
There were many reasons why the tall, lean Menominee chose to enlist in the Marine Corps. Osh had family in the Marines, and some of his buddies were enlisting after high school, but a more important reason to him was setting a positive example for his six siblings.
“We’re our own little clan in itself,” he said with a chuckle. “I want them to see that I made something bigger out of my life, and I’m always looking for new ways to become better.”
In less than two years time in service, Osh has won a Marine of the Quarter board, Marine NCO of the Quarter board and currently is preparing for a meritorious sergeant board.
These competitions among other Marines compare their performance at work, physical abilities, knowledge of the Marine Corps, skill in close-order drill and proper wearing of their uniforms.
“Osh has continued to excel in every way, shape and form, since he stepped on deck here,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brian Whalen, MARFORPAC security chief. “In the security branch, we are very competitive and constantly try to improve ourselves. He embodies the leadership trait which says ‘know thyself, and seek self improvement.’”
Osh arrived here doing nine pull-ups and running a 20-minute, three-mile run. Now he does 20 pull-ups and runs under an 18-minute, three-mile run.
“That is a perfect example of how he always wants to improve,” said Whalen.
During a work day, Osh monitors, accounts for and controls all classified material within the command, which includes conducting inspections to ensure that all matters regarding classified material are within regulations.
After an inspection his security shop was named the number one security branch in the Marine Corps.
“[Osh] has definitely added to the productivity level of our section,” said Whalen. “Because he is the Marine that he is, he would make a fine candidate for any Marine officer program out there.”
In Osh’s off-time, he works in the base recreation center, enjoys playing pool, participates in intramural sports and works out.
“Working out is addicting to me,” said Osh. “I like to stay active, I like the camaraderie that comes from sports.”
To exercise his mind Osh has also enrolled in college classes at Hawaii Pacific University, and has nearly completed his associate’s degree.
“My NCOs and Gunny Whalen have given me great leadership,” said Osh in his professional demeanor. “They’re always encouraging me to take college classes, push myself physically or to complete my MCIs.”
There are many ways Osh looks to improve himself.
“I want to be better than I was yesterday,” said Osh. “Always giving it your best is something I want to hold true in my life.”
By making self improvements, Osh has opened a few doors of opportunity.
“I love my job and the people I work with, and I’m happy with where I’m at now,” said Osh. “But later I possibly could pursue being commissioned and become an officer. I’m not sure yet, but I’m probably going to be a careerist.”
Oshkeshequoam has taken advantage of the many opportunities the Marine Corps has given him, and the tools to succeed, he said.
“No matter what I decide to do in the future, the Marine Corps and the things I’ve learned from it will help me where ever I go.”