CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan --
Four U.S. Marines stationed on Camp Foster share their stories and aspirations during Black History Month on Feb. 22.
The month of February is designated as Black History Month to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of African Americans throughout American history. Ever since the first African American Marine joined Marine Corps at Montford Point in 1942, they have achieved every rank from private to general, leaving their mark on the Marine Corps.
Pfc. Eugene Jackson, an administrative specialist, Lance Cpl. Camron Foreman, a data systems engineer, Cpl. Eric Williams, a motor transport operator, and Sgt. Bejan Pazoki, a military police officer, all hold different professions within the Marine Corps and have come from various backgrounds. However, these Marines all share one common goal: improving the lives of the Marines around them.
Each of these Marines grew up in different cultures and areas within the U.S., but what brought them all to the same warfighting force was their longing for self-improvement.
“I knew I didn’t want to go to college, I wanted to expose myself to the world and experience new challenges,” said Pazoki. “You see these videos of Marines from the past who have done incredible things, and it pushed me toward wanting something more from life.”
Pazoki, a native of Connecticut, played lacrosse extensively and has carried his active lifestyle over to his military career at Provost Marshal’s Office, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, where he now serves as part of the Special Reaction Team.
Alternatively, Williams grew up in the cities of Pennsylvania working multiple different jobs. While his geographical location and background was different, his reason for enlisting goes hand in hand with Pazoki’s.
“Growing up in the city environment caused me to develop tunnel vision, and at some point, I realized I wanted a change,” said Williams. “After meeting so many people of different backgrounds and experiencing a new culture in Japan, my outlook on life has changed drastically.”
Both Marines now hold leadership positions mentoring junior Marines in their respective units. Pazoki is a Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor and was entrusted with mentoring Marines in combat proficiency. Williams holds the billets of operations chief and squad leader in his platoon with 3rd Landing Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
“A win for me is whenever I’ve made an impact in my Marines,” said Williams. “Whether it's if I’m asked to pin someone for promotion or attend their graduation, I get to see a change in the work ethic or behavior.”
Pazoki’s identical passion for leading Marines has left him wanting to achieve more. At the end of this year, he will travel to Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Parris Island to become a drill instructor.
“The Marine Corps has shown me so much already these last four years, and I want to share that with Marines that I encounter, old or young,” said Pazoki. “But I want to teach at a higher level and making Marines at the drill field will help me achieve that.”
Regardless of rank, all Marines possess the ability to lead and inspire others. But before stepping into the shoes of higher ranks, every Marine will learn to play a smaller role within their own units.
Lance Cpl. Camron Foreman, who works with 3rd Network Battalion, Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, grew up in Arkansas in a Christian household and was heavily involved in his community. Some of his hobbies included drawing, martial arts, and sports.
“Typically, I wouldn’t use the word service, I just feel that helping people drives me to be a better person,” said Foreman. “It just keeps the wheel from being stagnant and the trickledown effect that everyone gets better one way or another.”
Foreman’s acts of service can be attributed to his involvement in his community and his religious roots. Growing up and playing sports, his value of teamwork carried over to the Marine Corps and his understanding of roles within a unit. While training for his Military Occupational Specialty in California, Foreman recalls a time where the idea of a team plays a crucial role in others’ successes. He and his classmates were tasked with a full body workout with varying training equipment, and the event culminated with a steep hill dubbed ‘Sugar Cookie.’
“We had been training for three hours at this point and some started to give up on themselves, but we understood that if one of us failed, we all failed,” said Foreman. “We were only as strong as our weakest link, so at that point we knew everyone had to make it.”
Jackson, who also works in 3rd Network Battalion, grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. His desire to embody and accomplish everything as a Marine has led to a blend of leadership and teamwork.
“The area that I came from wasn’t the best environment to grow up in,” said Jackson. “I just knew I wanted to be stronger, smarter, and wiser, and the Marine Corps is helping me work on those attributes.”
Jackson attributes his drive and success so far from his unwavering motivation. He describes his motivation as a cup that is never empty.
“My cup is overflowing, and if you have such an abundance of something, why not share it with everyone around you,” said Jackson. “Sometimes Marines will be in dark places and all they need is a brother to check up on them.”
Although Jackson is the second enlisted rank in the Marine Corps, he takes initiative to always prepare himself for the next step. Starting all the way as a civilian, he remained in the delayed entry program for only one week. During Marine Corps Boot Camp and Marine Combat Training, he held the positions of a squad leader. Shortly after arriving at his first duty station, he has already met the maximum requirements as the rank above him by completing his professional military education and earning his green belt of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
During their discussions of Black History Month, these Marines concluded that it wasn’t one singular figure of the past or present that helped them become the people they are today. Many Marines of all races, religions, backgrounds, helped shape their goals and experiences. Whether it was a younger junior enlisted Marine who they saw change under their care, or an older Marine who showed them the ropes when they were new, these four Marines have trekked their own paths based on the Marines that they encountered on their journeys.