Pfc. Paul Collins, of the U.S. Marine Corps, said he’s excited to ship off to warmer climes early next month.
“I’m going to Okinawa,” Collins said. “It’s a tropical climate. People go there for vacation, and I get to work and live there.”
First, however, Collins is cooling his heels in a decidedly colder place. On Saturday night, he returned to his hometown of Craig for nearly two weeks of leave.
He departs for Japan Feb. 9, and he expects to be deployed from there to Afghanistan within six months.
Okinawa will be Collins’ duty station for the next two years.
Collins graduated from Moffat County High School in May 2010. He, along with fellow MCHS grad Devon Enochs, attended boot camp at Camp Pendleton and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, from June 21 to Sept. 17, 2010.
After finishing boot camp, Collins and Enochs returned to Craig for a short visit in September.
Since then, Collins has graduated from courses in Marine Combat Training and Military Occupational Specialty training.
Collins’ MOS training was in motor transport, or “Motor T.” He graduated from the course Friday at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
According to the U.S. Marine Corps website, a motor transport platoon transports Marines and provides supplies to all units in the Marine Air Ground Task Force. Motor transports are equipped with 7-ton trucks, Humvees, and fuel and water tankers.
During the course, Collins learned to drive the heavy trucks.
“It was like learning to drive again,” he said.
The 7-ton trucks had a particularly steep learning curve, he said.
“It’s almost like a semi,” Collins said. “It’s an armored flatbed truck. There are two separate windshields with 6-inch thick, bulletproof glass.
“It’s also 98 inches wide,” he said of the truck. “It takes up the whole lane.”
Collins said he was trained on dirt roads and pavement. His first training run was on civilian roads.
“We were right there with the traffic,” he said. “It was pretty scary.”
Later in the training curriculum, Collins said he drove in complete darkness.
“I drove a three-mile course without headlights or night vision,” he said. “It was midnight, and it was pitch dark.”
Eventually, Collins was trained to drive with night vision, but even that had some drawbacks, he said.
“The night vision (goggles) had one lens. I had to drive with just one eye,” he said laughing. “But, you get used to it quick.”
Collins said the seven-ton trucks carry 19 people including the driver. And, although they’re called 7-ton trucks, some of them are much heavier.
“One of them was 31,000 pounds,” he said. “It’s a huge responsibility.”
Despite the training, Collins said his MOS might not be called into duty.
“I was told I will barely be doing my actual job (in Afghanistan),” he said. “I was told I’d most likely be hiking with infantry.”
Before then, however, Collins said he will be stationed on one of three bases on Okinawa where his training will continue.
“I’m a little nervous,” Collins said of Japan. “It’s a completely different culture. I don’t know a single word of Japanese.”
However, regarding his possible deployment to Afghanistan, Collins said he’s ready.
“There are always risks,” Collins said. “But, I’ve prepared myself for those risks. Of course, you can’t fully prepare yourself for something like that.
“But, I’m ready.”
In the meantime, Collins said he plans to enjoy the simple pleasures of Craig.
“I’m going to spend time with my family,” he said. “Unless there’s some kind of emergency, I won’t be back for two years.”
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