CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii --
The Marine Corps prides itself on being green. We are not black, white, brown or yellow as far as we’re concerned. The only color we see is the color of our uniform. We strive to ensure equality because we are Marines, a title that transcends social or racial labels. But Marines also take pride in where they come from.
To honor the rich blend of cultures serving in the Marine Corps today, we set aside periods of the year to conduct cultural observances highlighting the accomplishments of Marines past and present who continue to charge through the Corps history, and during the month of September, Marines honor those of Hispanic descent.
At U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Sgt. Kevin A. Aguilar is one of those Marines making a difference and upholding the standards set by those who came before.
Born and raised in California, the 30-year-old father of three decided he wanted to be a Marine at a very young age.
“I used to watch war movies instead of cartoons when I was a kid,” Aguilar said. “When I was seven-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, 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.”
Unfortunately, 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.
He shipped to basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., Jan.10, 2005. After completing recruit training Aguilar attended Marine combat training.
Once he arrived at his military occupational specialty school, Aguilar yet again faced disappointment.
“I thought I was going to be rolling around in pimped out humvees with 50 (caliber machine guns),” Aguilar said. “When I found out I was going to be driving 5 tons, I was not too happy.”
Aguilar never forgot why he joined; he wanted to fight for his country. He graduated from his MOS school and finally received the break he’d been waiting for.
He was assigned to Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 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 eventually deployed to Iraq in 2007, but in the interim, the young Marine 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.’ In 2005, that was boot camp, I deployed to Iraq in 2007, so in 2006, I saw that the battalion only had one MCMAP 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’s dream came full circle. Aided by a company commander who continuously volunteered his platoon, Aguilar conducted dozens of combat missions and earned a reputation for being trustworthy and dependable.
His reputation followed him back to Twentynine Palms. In Oct. 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, MarForPac, to work as the dispatching and licensing noncommissioned officer in charge. Aguilar realized he was being sent to a non-deployable unit but 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 perform as a martial arts instructor.
“He’s a stellar sergeant of Marines,” said Cpl. James Moore, a motor transportation Marine with MarForPac. “I’ve been in for almost five and 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 Sgt. Aguilar and guarantee that it gets done.
“I had to go on emergency leave once and I couldn’t find the number to the Red Cross. Five seconds after I told him, he had the number for me. That’s the kind of sergeant he is.”
His dependability has been noticed throughout the command. In addition to his job and time 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 Staff Sgt. Trinity A. Lizalde, embark chief for HQSVC Bn. “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,” Aguilar said. “But it’s time I give back to the Marine Corps for what it’s given me.”