CENTRAL TRAINING AREA, OKINAWA, Japan -- CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan – “You got this Marine that’s a meat eater,” said Staff Sgt. David Rogers. “The meat eater is the one that loves what he does, he loves to be able to get out there in the suck, he loves fighting for his country, he loves to do everything he possibly can to be a better person and wants to fight the fight.”
He classifies people who join the Marine Corps into four groups: the one that is patriotic and joins straight out of high school, the one who’s trying to escape issues back home, the one trying to go to college and the meat eater.
Thirteen-and-a-half years of service to the Marine Corps, having been to Iraq and Afghanistan, Hawaii, Okinawa, Canada and every coast of the U.S., Rogers finds himself back in the humid jungle of Okinawa as a platoon sergeant with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which is forward deployed from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, to 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the Unit Deployment Program. Having been in Okinawa earlier this year at the Jungle Warfare Training Center testing new uniforms and boots, putting them through the wringer of dense vegetation, mud, water, rain, heat, and general wear, the company is back for exercise Blue Chromite 17.
The role of the infantry Marines in Blue Chromite is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy with fire and maneuver. Each company within 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines had their own role for the mission rehearsal. For Rogers and his men, it was to assault and secure an airfield.
India Company inserted by helicopter Nov. 1 to an airfield in the Central Training Area, secured the area, which allowed a MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and a CH-53E Super Stallion to stay in the field with them overnight. While providing security for the airfield, they conducted constant patrols of the surrounding area, which meant minimal amounts of sleep.
When it’s snowing and raining out, or worse, you want to prepare for when you find yourself in that third-world country or in a fire fight in the middle of war with terrible conditions, according to Rogers, from Brockport, New York. Knowing yourself, your men and your training, you can push yourself and those around you to the limit.
“The suck” comes in many forms: the challenges of war; being caught in the mountains of Afghanistan with rain and snow, having no cold-weather gear; putting a flak and Kevlar helmet on and carrying a 40 pound daypack to include food and water, a rifle, then rushing 2 kilometers in the blistering heat and suffocating humidity of Okinawa to get to the objective; long nights without sleep; homesickness.
“It’s hard being away from family,” said Rogers, as he sat on a box of MREs under the shade of a hacienda he made out of his camouflaged tarp, hidden in the tree line. “I went from (Integrated Training Exercise) straight to (Infantry Unit Leader Course) then straight to Okinawa.”
Even though he has been away from family for about ten months, only being able to see them for less than 20 days, he says he does it for his Marines and his love for the job.
“As a person, he’s always showing up at the barracks no matter what day it is, the weekends or the holidays,” said Sgt. Jacob Flatley, a squad leader with India Company. “I don’t know how many times I can say it, but he’s always there to help us out no matter what.”
His boss sees the importance of his influence too.
“Mentorship is incredibly important. We’re dealing with young men, and to put it quite honestly, they have a lot to learn to be a professional warfighter,” said Maj. Michael Jevons, company commander to India Company. “To be a Marine is a substantial responsibility and requires a significant amount of maturity, so you need a strong platoon sergeant and strong staff sergeant that have knowledge and experience to teach these Marines, simply put, how to be a Marine.”
Rogers’ presence with his Marines is more than merely an obligation as a unit leader.
“A face is a face, but once somebody puts a name behind that face, it actually means a lot,” said Flatley, a native of Pasadena, Maryland. “He has that fatherly figure and definitely helps us get things done. Definitely an important part to all of us.”
Rogers hopes to stay in the Marine Corps for as long as it will allow him, but as a young Marine, he made the decision of getting tattoos, which is regulated in the Marine Corps. He uses this experience as a tool to teach his Marines, to think before they ink. He passes on what he’s learned to help his Marines’ careers and remains in the thick of it alongside his Marines throughout Blue Chromite because he sees a little bit of himself in them, being meat eaters.
“I got the guys that if it’s four years, eight years, 10 years, 20 years, it doesn’t matter, they’re going to do the best that they’re going to do as an infantryman to protect their country,” said Rogers. “They love their country and their Corps and they abide by the code, ‘God, country, Corps,’ and they focus on their ability to be better every single day and I got some meat eaters in my platoon. They are hardcore, they love their job, they love what they do and they’ll make all those sacrifices to spend time learning how to be better.”