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Cpl. Ben Mills, Commanding General’s driver, was selected for his billet in April. While in high school, he ran two marathons as part of a running program in Philadelphia, Pa. (Official Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo/ Released)

Photo by Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo

What I’ve Learned: Ben Mills

25 Oct 2016 | Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

I grew up in Philadelphia, Pa. My family is big, but I’ve only interacted with a few of them. I have an older brother, an older sister and a younger sister, but I only grew up with my sisters.

I’m very close to my sisters. Growing up, my older sister always helped my mom take care of us.

I grew up eating chips, cookies and all manner of junk food. By the time I got to high school I knew I had to become healthier so I wanted to get into a sport. I was too short for basketball, I was too short for football and I knew I wasn’t going to do anything else so I thought, I might as well try out for track and field.

I ran a few minor events but the two that I’m most proud of are the two marathons.

When I first started track and field I was really bad so I quit. After I stopped track, I joined a marathon running group. The training was progressive. When I first started, we would run two miles every day for a month. If our trainer saw improvement they’d increase the distance. I was in the group for about two years. It was a lot of fun, but it was really taxing.

Growing up, I didn’t have my dad around so my uncle became my father figure. He was the one who made sure I was disciplined, and that I got good grades in school. He made me read a lot. He punished me by making me read books.

My uncle taught me that I needed to be respectful, reliable and intelligent. That I needed to improve myself in some way every day. If you go a day without improving, then you’re just wasting your life.

My uncle was the type of person who was very intelligent, but he made a lot of mistakes. You could tell he wished he didn’t make those mistakes, so he tried to prepare me for the world. As a kid, I resented that. Now that I’m older, I appreciate what he did for me.

When my uncle left I thought, “I can do whatever I want now.” I started hanging out with my friends and doing what I pleased. At the end of high school, I had a bunch of scholarships to go to college but at the time, I didn’t think I was smart enough to go.

The mentality in my family is “get a job so you can help pay bills.” It’s all about surviving, making money and helping out. I didn’t want that, so I tried to get a job, but no one would hire me.

I was almost 19, still living with my mom, with no job. I knew if I didn’t do something I’d waste my time and I had to make money somehow, so I decided to join the military.

I attempted to take the [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] with the Army six times, but for one reason or another I was never able to. There was always the Marine Corps recruiter right there, guaranteeing they could do a better job.

The Marine Corps was really efficient and I liked that. I could tell that they cared about their work.

I am really glad that I joined the Marine Corps. I’m grateful because it gave me the opportunity to go to school and better myself. Being stable is all I care about. I want to be able to take care of everything I have to and then be able to do all the things I want to.

I would say my upbringing prepared me for the Marine Corps. I was always a tough person because of where I grew up.

I got selected from postal to serve as the Commanding General’s driver. I’ve been here for five months. It is important because you have to make sure you’re paying attention to detail and taking care of the tasks you’re assigned.

My responsibilities include making sure the CG gets where he needs to be in a safe and timely manner. I’m in charge of updating his schedule, managing his invitations and maintaining the vehicle.

In my free time, I like to go to the gym and play basketball. I also like to watch movies, that’s my thing. I like action movies a lot, especially Kung Fu movies.

I’m a certified [Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning] technician. That means I’m certified to work on people’s heating and cooling units.

Eventually, I want to move into a [Military Occupational Specialty] in the general technician field.

If you can handle the Marine Corps, there should be nothing that you can’t handle in the civilian world.

There are good people that I’ve met in the Marine Corps. I had a master sergeant who just left and he really set the example for what a good Marine and person should be. There’s a few Marines I’ve met that really inspired me to be better and do more.

When I got promoted to the rank of corporal, my whole idea was to lead, but still be myself. Still do what’s required of me but don’t forget who I was before I came here.

If I had to give advice to a fellow Marine, I would say don’t forget who you are. Understand you’re a Marine but don’t try to become a robot because at the end of the day it’s all about being a morally good person.

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms