KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan --
Many new Marines are thankful for their drill instructor’s guidance upon graduation from recruit training, but hope to never see them again. However, for some this just isn’t in their cards.
Sgt. Ryan Shouse, a powerline mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), is one such Marine. For the past four years, he has worked with his former drill instructor Staff Sgt. Steven Engs, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the powerline shop for VMFA-232, the "Red Devils."
Engs does not remember every recruit he trained during his time as a drill instructor, however, what he does remember about Shouse was his determination to become a Marine.
Shouse completed his final three weeks of recruit training with a broken hip.
"Looking back on it - it’s awesome, even in the fleet you won’t find Marines who will run three miles when they are hurt," said Engs, originally from Simi Valley, Calif. "For him to do this with the injury he had - for him to carry on with it - was very impressive."
The injury was discovered during the final physical fitness test when the senior drill instructor asked Engs how many recruits were still running. When Engs went to find out, he discovered Shouse limping toward the finish line, Engs recalled.
After the PFT was finished, Shouse was sent to medical where exams showed his hip was broken in two places. His doctor was unable to determine how the breaks were sustained, Shouse explained.
"I first realized there was something wrong when we were running to the rappel tower, but I didn’t say anything because I had already been dropped back in training for two fractures in my foot," Shouse said. "I didn’t want to go that far, make it all the way through [recruit training], then get dropped again. I wanted to graduate, go to the fleet and do what I needed to do."
Shouse’s courage and drive led his commanders to graduate him with the rest of his platoon.
"I was just relieved it was over and proud of myself for making it through to the end," Shouse said.
Three screws and six months later, with Shouse completely recovered, he attended his military occupational specialty school in Pensacola, Fla., then checked-in with his first fleet unit at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. Engs was soon to follow.
The Marines worked together at Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 for two years before Engs transferred to VMFA-232.
"Shouse did a really good job at [VMFAT] 101," Engs said. "We were looking for more Marines, and I requested for him to come to [VMFA] 232."
Obviously, there is some history, but it’s not like most people would expect, explained Shouse, originally from Scottsburg, Ind.
"The drill instructor-recruit mentality is in the past," Shouse said. "He knows what I’ve been through, and he has mentored me from the get go. Staff sergeant has been in for a while, and I’m coming up in the Corps. He is there to mentor me."
Engs sees the situation on the same level, only from the mentor’s point of view.
"Since he has always been working for me, I have always had an interest in his success." Engs said. "Any kind of product you put out, you want to see them grow, progress and succeed. Now, here he is – a sergeant."
The Marines may not know what their future assignments will hold, but Shouse will always have a mentor to turn to when he is in need of guidance.