Marine-Minded

Based
in Haditha on personal security detail, a typical day meant waking up early and
going out in a convoy to wherever the battalion sergeant needed to go. It meant
traveling on foot in patrols checking on other companies, IDs, bombs or
ambushes and providing security for important officials and VIPs.

After
a long day and night convoying from Baghdad to Fallujah, Austin Hancock’s
battalion had just two hours notice that a VIP was coming in: then-presidential
candidate John McCain. Despite the long travel and fatigue, Hancock and his
fellow soldiers headed out to provide security for McCain’s helicopter landing
in Haditha.

As
primary security for high ranking officers, Hancock’s battalion was assigned to
protect McCain during his visit to Haditha. With Marines posted all over the
city and Hancock with a few men on the ground with McCain, the politician toured
the city and met with locals and other dignitaries.

The
visit went smoothly and without any problems. Hancock said McCain seemed
reasonable during his visit and respects the fact that McCain and his sons have
served in the military.

Hancock
always wanted to be in the military, ever since he was a young boy growing up
in Edmond.

Although
he “wanted to be airborne and jump out of planes,” the young man decided to
leave college in February of 2006 to join the Marines. “They have the best rep
and are known for getting the job done,” Hancock said.

He
went on to become a lance corporal in anti-tank assault, learning how to shoot
missiles at tanks from inside vehicles or on the ground. “Every Marine is
always a rifleman first,” Hancock said while describing his initial training.

After
boot camp and training, he joined the reserves but was soon sent into active
duty. He served in North Carolina and California before being deployed to Iraq
in 2007.

While
in Iraq, Hancock was able to keep in touch with his family and friends via the Internet
and felt support from back home. “America is pretty good about that right now,”
he says. “Even if they don’t support it politically, they still support the
troops. Just remember, there are still people out there.”

His
four years in the Marines have given him a new perspective on life. “At home you’re in your small-town bubble,
but when you go overseas you find the world was bigger than you realized,” he
said.

Military
service forces thinking outside the box and a bigger perspective on life,
Hancock says. “Your own problems seem smaller in comparison and you realize
there are others in the world that may have it a lot worse than you do.”

Hancock
says serving in the military helps give young people a strong foundation in
life and understanding rank structure and respect. To be a Marine, one must be
open-minded and teachable, while at the same time having a mind of their own.

“You
want someone there who listens to everything you say, but who also gives back
and is knowledgeable,” said Hancock. “You need feedback, but not confrontation;
someone who can express themselves and bring assets to the team.”

One
of the hardest parts of being in the military is learning to take orders and
being micromanaged, he adds. While micromanaging may not always be necessary,
extreme combat situations make it absolutely necessary.

To
aspiring Marines, Hancock says, “Stay open-minded. Figure out what you really
want to do and go after it. You won’t know until you do it.”

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