CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Standing over 6 feet tall, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Justin Nobles can look pretty intimidating. But anyone who spends a few minutes talking to him quickly finds a soft-spoken guy with a country accent.
Nobles, a radio technician assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6 here, said he grew up living mostly with his father, who worked long hours to support his son. The Marine, from Petal, Miss., said is how he learned to work hard himself.
“I’ve always looked up to my father,” Nobles said. “He always worked shift work, ever since I can remember. He would sometimes work 12- to 18-hour shifts to provide for me.”
While his father worked, Nobles said, he spent time with his grandparents.
“They were like a second set of parents,” he added. “My grandfather is a real great man - he even started the school system where I [grew up]. He definitely taught me how to be a man.”
Nobles said that although he was very family-oriented, he made the wrong friends for a while. He added that it took a near-death experience to make him consider the Marine Corps.
“Where I come from, people either do the right thing or the wrong thing,” he said. “I got kicked out of school several times; I just couldn’t get my head on straight. I was making some bad choices and some bad friends. It felt like a bad streak a mile wide.”
Things changed one day, Nobles said, while he was relaxing in a canoe on a river near his hometown. Suddenly, a boat in front of him got stuck and the two vessels collided. Nobles’ canoe flipped upside down and he was pinned underwater while the canoe was wedged against the boat.
“I just thought to myself ‘Well, this is it, this is how it’s going to end,’” he said.
Nobles said as his life flashed before him, he realized he hadn’t done much with it. He said he felt God was giving him a wake-up call.
Nobles managed to get his footing and stand up underwater, he recounted, pushing the canoe out of the way and dislodging it from the boat.
“I really felt like if I died then, I wouldn’t have done anything with my life,” he said. “That next day I went to the Marine recruiter’s office.”
Nobles said he chose the Marine Corps over the other services because of a cousin who fought in Desert Storm.
“I just had so much respect for him growing up that I guess it just translated into respect for the Marine Corps,” he said. “Once you get the mindset that you want to be a Marine, settling for anything else isn’t something you want to do.”
“I honestly didn’t choose my [military occupational specialty],” Nobles said. “I thought I was coming in as infantry. I didn’t even know the Marine Corps had a job like this.”
Considering he didn’t get the job he wanted, Nobles said, he couldn’t have gotten a better one.
“I love fixing all these radios; it’s just like a big puzzle and you have to figure out which piece is missing or broken,” he said with a smile while updating the software on some radios.
Nobles said one of his fondest memories is of when he went to Forward Operating Base Delhi to fix a radio. When he arrived, he said, he was told to rest because he had arrived late at night. But Nobles had a broken radio and a mission to accomplish.
“That particular one had been broken since August of 2011,” Nobles said, noting that people in three units were unable to fix it,. "I fixed it in five hours," he added. "I was worried there for a minute, because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to fix it.”
Watching Nobles on the job, it’s easy to see his work ethic.
“It’s really just a pride thing,” he said. “There’s no sense in doing something [halfway]. It’s all about being a man and taking pride in what you do. That’s why I try so hard to learn new things about my MOS and try and better myself.”