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Airman Apprentice Nathan Grabel, student, Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit, started working at the young age of 11. Ever since then Grabel has had a hardworking attitude that led him to join the Navy at the first opportunity he got. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Ashlee Conover)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Ashlee Conover

What I’ve Learned: Nathan Grabel

5 Feb 2018 | Lance Cpl. Ashlee Conover Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

>I was born and raised in Mays Landing, NJ. Growing up I was fortunate enough to have both my parents under the same roof which was very uncommon among most of my friends. I am one of three children with two older brothers, Colin, 21 and Andrew, 23. The older I get the closer we are, but growing up we never got along.

>Around the age of 4 I started BMX racing. When I turned 9 I got into motocross and ever since then racing has been a big part of my life. I love a good adrenaline rush and I like to live life in the fast lane, literally. Driving is a huge part of who I am. I was fast and reckless. From small cars to big trucks I drove it all.

>By the time I was 11 I started working. I was obsessed with the idea of making my own money. I started out working at a local boat ramp and as I got older I found myself taking on more responsibility at my jobs. I landed a job as a plumber shortly after I left the boat ramp and when I turned 16 I worked my way to a steel factory risking my life everyday as a teenager doing work way above what my pay grade and job position required. Once I was ready to find a new, safer job, I used my connections and started valet parking cars in Atlantic City.

>I attended Oakcrest High School where I graduated a year early. I hated school but I was good at it. I just wanted to get out of school and start my life so I doubled up on classes and got out of there. I definitely think I grew up fast. I was always ready to start living how I wanted.

>I joined the Navy because I needed to get away from home. I moved out when I was 17 because I wanted to make my life better. There wasn’t much going for me staying in the same place my entire life. I didn’t plan on joining the Navy, I just knew I wanted to join a service and the Navy caught my attention.

>I will never regret my decision to join. The people I’ve met throughout this journey are unforgettable. I am 18 years old and I just drove across the country, soon I’ll be heading to Washington and in four months I’ll be in Japan, when just last year I wasn’t the best teenager.

>Before I joined I got in trouble with the law countless times. I didn’t think the rules applied to me and I didn’t worry about repercussions when it came to the dumb things I convinced my friends to do with me. Now I’m an Aviation Electronic Technician which means I’m responsible for making sure aircraft make it safely from one destination to the next.

>My five year plan is to reenlist and go to college to get a degree so I can set myself up for success. I never want to live life with regrets and tell myself I could have done better to be more successful.

>I live by the words, be the change you want to see. Who am I to be like everyone else and blame others and point fingers, if I don’t try to make a change myself? It doesn’t help being a part of the problem. If there’s anything I can do to make a situation better or to help others then I will do it no matter what. It’s just what I have to do.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms