CAMP KINSER, Okinawa, Japan --
CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan -- “It was myself and doggone six other motivated devils just hauling ass everywhere trying to get ammo back into the mags,” said Cpl. Patrick Johnson with a thick southern twang. “We had a purpose.”
Johnson, now an ammunition clerk with G-4, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, was previously an ammunition technician at an ammunition supply point in Camp Pendleton, California. Camp Pendleton experiences several wild fires every year, Johnson explained.
One summer, the fire reached a hill just before the ammunition supply point, he said.
At the time, Johnson was certified to operate heavy equipment. He also had a forklift license and an explosives handling certificate, so the responsibility fell to him and some of his fellow Marines to move the ammunition into earth-covered magazines and out of the path of the blaze.
Johnson said that this day spent battling against the fire was his favorite memory in the Marine Corps so far, but looking back, Johnson was careful to clarify that that day was no better than any other day – just different.
Johnson related his experience to something he had heard from Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal, a Marine who received the Navy Cross for his actions during a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq.
“Sgt. Maj. Kasal has this speech and he asks, ‘How many ceremonies have you seen of somebody getting a good conduct medal?’” Johnson said. “Zero! Nobody! Nobody gets one. But that takes three years to get. But Kasal says it was three hours of his life for him to get his award.”
Johnson said the hard work that is done every day is no less important than what is done in those moments people tell stories about. He added that it’s the little things that matter most, because it’s the little things that make those special moments possible.
This is a principle that has been with Johnson since his childhood, he said.
Johnson is from Johnson City, Tennessee, where he says that growing up was very simple. Discussing his favorite childhood memories, Johnson spoke about the trees, the wildlife and the pleasures of small town life instead of any extravagant events.
“My family owns a farm,” he said. “A small one. It’s just my grandparents. Got a few cows, but it’s mostly just stuff you eat. We grow corn, but we don’t sell a lot.”
Johnson said his family has a history of military service and that it was his turn to serve.
“On my dad’s side it kind of alternates between going to prison and serving,” he said, “So, my dad was in prison, my grandfather was a soldier and then his father was a convict.”
Johnson removed his wire-rimmed glasses and rubbed his reddening blue eyes while talking about his family.
“I hope they’re proud,” he said with a shaking voice. “I hope so. I know my mom is.”
However, when Johnson chose to enlist after high school, it wasn’t just to avoid an alternate fate. Johnson said he had always wanted to be a Marine and joined to serve his country.
“My precious constitution!” he exclaimed. “It seems like everyone only really wants to follow it when it’s convenient for them and I am not a big fan of that, so I thought, ‘Hey! Might as well go to the place that will protect it and preserve it.’”
Johnson enlisted on an infantry contract, but scored a low combat fitness score, which resulted in him reclassing to become an ammunition technician.
Johnson said he doesn’t think he will change back to infantry, though.
“Maybe if a war popped off and they needed the extra bodies, I’d love to,” Johnson said with a smile and eyes wide in imagination of such a possibility.
Johnson said that, in the meantime, he loves his job.
“I love ammo,” he said. “It’s unique because it’s small, but it does a lot of work in terms of moving parts,” said Johnson. “Everybody needs ammo and you can’t find wild 5.56 [mm ammunition]”.
By Johnson’s assessment, being part of the logistics combat element of the Marine Corps means being part of what makes the Marine Corps the world’s finest fighting force.
“There are 20 percent that get to hook, jab and stab like everyone wants to,” he said. “But without the 80 percent that support them, that 20 percent ain’t gonna be as efficient.”
Johnson said it would be a lie to say he doesn’t sometimes wish that he were a part of that 20 percent, though – especially when he first entered the job field.
“I didn’t really appreciate it until I looked at the big picture,” he said of working in logistics.
Again, Johnson found context in the words of a Marine he looks up to: the 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert H. Barrow.
“Back in 1980, the Commandant of the Marine Corps was quoted saying ‘Amateurs talk tactics, but professionals study logistics,’” Johnson said. “Because logistics wins wars.”
Logistics is one of the little things, he said.
Johnson said of being part of 3rd Marine Logistics Group, “It feels nice being a cog in this clockwork that is very keen on doing its job greatly.”