SOUTHWEST ASIA — Graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Training is a special day in any Marine’s life. It is a day of great pageantry and fanfare, and it marks the closing of the first chapter in a Marine’s career. For the friends and family of the new Marines, it’s a chance for them to share in their loved one’s accomplishment.
But for some in attendance, it is a glimpse into their futures.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Lakin Chaffer, an embarkation specialist deployed to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, said her interest in the service was piqued when she watched her best friend’s graduation on Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Now, Chaffer herself has earned the right to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.
“When I saw her graduate, I saw how cool it was and thought, ‘I’m not doing anything—so why not?’” Chaffer said.
From Serving Tables to Serving Country
“When I told my mom I was thinking about joining the Marine Corps, she told me my sister was also considering joining the services,” she said. “So we went to the recruiting office together and both ended up joining the Marine Corps.”
At the time, Chaffer said, it felt like her life was staying stagnant and enlistment was the push she needed to get moving in the right direction.
“If I didn’t join I would have just kept doing the same stuff,” she said. “I was working as a waitress and just doing the bare minimum to get by in life. This got me on my feet and helped me start growing up.”
While both Chaffer and her sister wanted to enlist as aviation mechanics, there was only one space open for that contract, and they wanted to go to boot camp together. Her sister got the aviation mechanic contract, and Chaffer chose embarkation specialist.
Her job requires her to keep track of all task force troops and supplies flying in and out of the base. Chaffer said although it wasn’t her initial choice, she has learned to like her job and appreciates the opportunities it has provided her.
“If cargo such as ammunition, food, or hazmat needs to get somewhere, it’s my job to submit the proper paperwork to get it on a flight,” she explained. “Once my name is attached to it, I’m responsible for it until it gets to its destination. I need to keep track of it and make sure it arrives, and if it doesn’t, I have to figure out why.”
Even though Chaffer is relatively new to the Marine Corps, she said she understands her purpose and gains fulfillment from the work she does.
“If it wasn’t for me, people here wouldn’t be able to travel on Marine Corps flights,” she said. “Cargo wouldn’t be able to get where it needs to go, and basically nothing could go to and from this base.”
On her first deployment, and not even half way through her contract, Chaffer hasn’t quite decided where she wants her future to go.
“Re-enlistment is always an option, but I still have a while to decide,” she said. “One of the nice things about this job is that I can take all the skills I learned here and transfer it to a job in the civilian world, but I still haven’t decided yet on what I want to do.”
She said she’s glad she decided to join the Marine Corps, even if she ultimately decides to leave the service when her contract is finished.
“The biggest piece of advice I can offer someone that is looking to join the military is don’t drop your pack,” she said. “Don’t be that guy or girl that just says ‘forget this,’ and give up when things get tough. Just keep pushing and always do the best that you can, and eventually it will pay off.”