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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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Sgt. Patricio Parra, warehouse noncommissioned officer in charge, Headquarters Battalion, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, comes from a foreign military family and is taking a new step in his eight-year Marine Corps career to become a drill instructor.(Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Connor Hancock/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Connor Hancock

What I've Learned: Sgt. Patricio Parra

27 May 2016 | Cpl. Connor Hancock Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

When I was three years old, I came to the United States from Ecuador with my mom and my older sister.

My dad was a pilot in the Ecuadorian Air Force and passed away from lung cancer when I was three. My mom worked two to three jobs at a time to support us.

Seeing all the effort my mom put into to supporting our family made me appreciate how important it is to be there for my children when I have them.

I want to take care of my body and be as healthy as possible so I can always be there for my family.

I focused on academics and athletics while I was growing up. I played football, soccer and competed in swimming throughout high school. Sports helped me stay productive and interact with my peers.

I graduated early at 17 and was working at a restaurant and a 24-hour bank while going to community college. Trying to balance work, school and my social life was rough.

I was doing homework in my college’s lobby when a Marine Corps recruiter approached me. He talked to me about earning money for college and convinced me to look into the Marine Corps. I thought “Why not?” I turned 18 and signed up. I’ve been in eight years now and I still talk to him.

My mom was livid when she found out. Now she understands I’m doing what I love.

During my first enlistment I was stationed in [Marine Corps Air Station] New River and [Marine Corps Base] Camp Lejeune, N.C. Toward the end of my first enlistment I was looking into commissioning as an officer in the Army. Between the Army officer program and the Marine Corps, I chose to reenlist for an opportunity to deploy. That’s when I got stationed at [the Combat Center].

I exercised as hard as I could when I got here to be ready for my first deployment. My chief warrant officer sent me to Camp Pendleton, [Calif.], to deploy to Afghanistan with Combat Logistics Battalion 1.

Two weeks after I got to Afghanistan, I got promoted to sergeant. My mentor, Staff Sgt. Bowman, gave me fair warning that the senior sergeants were going to be hard on me. It was rough but I learned a lot from the senior Marines I was around.

After being in CLB, I got orders to Headquarters Battalion. I submitted a recruiter package because I enjoy communicating with people and being social.

My staff noncommissioned officer was a drill instructor and he told me I would be better as a DI. I was expecting to go to recruiter’s school when my orders came back and said ‘DI West’.

My staff NCO helped me prepare mentally by practicing drill and commanding troops. I was supposed to leave in April but I got injured playing soccer. Fortunately, my mentors and my command have been supportive. They were able to get me into the next drill instructor school this summer.

Every time I’ve reenlisted, I’ve met great people and gained new experiences. The Marine Corps has helped me a lot. I have a lot more discipline now, whether it’s getting the mission done or accomplishing daily tasks that are thrown at me. My attitude has changed to just grab whatever is thrown at me and run with it. Handling a stressful situation just means anything after that will be a piece of cake.

I’m more confident. I used to be scared to speak in front of people, staring at the floor. Now I can talk in front of any amount of people. I’ve instructed lance corporal seminars and really enjoyed them because each one is different.

My goal after completing DI school is to submit a warrant officer package so I can learn more and get out of my comfort zone. I’ve been impressed by the warrant officers I’ve worked with and they have shown me a lot.

I’ve learned no matter how hard things can be, at the end of the day if you’re still breathing, you’ll be fine.
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms