MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The dusty mountain air was littered with unrelenting machine gun fire as Marines sent thousands of rounds down range. Sparks flew through the sky as rounds ripped through the rusty metal targets a few hundred meters away. In between burst of fire, the shouts of Sgt. Joshua See, the lead machine gun instructor with 1st Marine Division Schools, echoed over the rocky terrain as he paced up and down behind a brass covered firing line.
See joined the Marine Corps in 2006, while he was still in high school. During that time a series of events led to his ultimate decision to earn the title.
See was athletic and gravitated towards team sports growing up. He joined the Brownwood High School football team where he played defensive line. See and the other linemen became close-knit friends on and off the field. The bonds that See formed with his teammates would prove to be lasting and influential to See’s future decisions.
See’s plans after high school were anything but certain, law enforcement initially interested him, but as he became closer with his teammates and coach they began to encourage him to consider a military career.
“I always felt like I had been adopted by my team. I was surrounded by leaders and people that I could look up to when I was in school,” See said. “College never appealed to me and I knew that I wanted a physical, hands-on job. As a junior, I saw a lot of the seniors that I played with joining the Marine Corps. They were guys that I really respected and looked up to, so I just naturally gravitated to the military.”
See edged closer to joining the military but his decision to enlist solidified when he received news that his former teammate had been killed. Corporal Michael Ledsome with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, died while conducting combat operations in Anbar province, Iraq. Losing his friend at such a young age ignited a fire in See that set a clear path to give his all to his country and to the ones that he loved. It was at that moment that See understood sacrifice and he chose to join the Marines.
“Michael was willing to risk his life for his country,” See said. “If he was willing to give his life for his country what sort of man would that make me if I didn’t offer to do the same? After I heard that he died I knew that serving my country was the only option for me. I owed him everything.”
See joined the Marine Corps his senior year of high school in 2006 and never looked back. The loss of his friend has driven him to offer everything he has to his students so that they can be fully prepared for anything in combat.
“The only thing that I regret when I look back on joining the Marines is that I didn’t do it sooner,” See said. “I can’t change what happened to Michael, but I can make sure that I put forth every ounce of effort I have every day.”
After multiple deployments, including two combat deployments to Afghanistan and years of perfecting his skills in the infantry field he found himself as the lead machine gun instructor at 1st Marine Division Schools. See shares his real-world experiences with his students, giving them extra tools to utilize during the course and in combat.
“He is a phenomenal instructor who develops and brings out the best in his students and the other instructors,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Paul Hoffman, the Staff Non Commissioned Officer for 1st Marine Division Schools, and a native of Duncan, Okla. “See doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He is blunt and direct and I think that's the best way to be in this job field. Machine guns are used everywhere in the Marine Corps so the impact that See has is vast.”
As an instructor, See realizes that his task is not an easy one, but he takes pride and comfort in knowing that he helps to make more capable and combat ready Marines.
“I love my job,” said See, a native of Brownwood, Texas. “Any day that I can lay my hands on machine guns and share my knowledge and passion for them with other Marines is a good day. I wake up wanting to do everything that I can to help those around me.”
See teaches a variety of machine gun courses that vary in length from eight days to a month and he instructs approximately 500 Marines a year. Marines going through the course learn the characteristics and the proper and effective implementation of the M240, M249, Mk 19 and .50 caliber machine gun. They also participate in practical application exercise and live-fire ranges to improve their performance with the weapons.
Observing students improve and adding new skills to their repertoire is See’s reward for the dedicated effort that he puts into his job.
“Junior Marines depend on strong NCO’s for guidance and knowledge,” See said. “I base a lot of what I teach on my experiences and what I have seen. I try to pass on as much as I can to Marines, knowing that so many of them look up to me.”
Whether he is behind a weapon or in front of a class, See expects nothing less than the best from himself and those around him. Living a life of excellence and passing on his knowledge to others is See’s way of repaying the highest debt owed to those that sacrificed everything.