DI ends search, trains recruits
By Sgt. Sandra K. Chiaravallotti
| | December 14, 2001
MCRD SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
During the summer of 1997, an energetic young man arrived at the gates of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. Initially here to perform duties as a purchaser/contractor, SSgt. Troy A. Small was in search of something bigger. He wanted to leave an impact on young Marines' lives.
His search led him through the doors of Drill Instructor School in July 2000.
"The Marine Corps did a lot for me as an adult," explained Small. "My purpose for going to Drill Instructor School was twofold. I wanted to give something back to an organization that gave me all of my life's experiences, and I wanted to be a mentor."
The junior drill instructor of platoon 2013 has done well since his graduation day.
"From the beginning, SSgt. Small was promising and a natural at being a drill instructor," said SSgt. Russell M. Badua, the first junior drill instuctor Small worked for. "He was comfortable in taking control of the platoon and was always loud, intense and eager to train."
Though he was eager to train, Small admits he didn't know everything when he made his way to Fox Company.
"Drill Instructor School gave me the basic knowledge I needed to be a drill instructor," he explained. "But when you first get into the trenches you're as dumb as the recruits. You have to really learn how to be a drill instructor."
You can't learn everything on your own, according to Small. He had two very important teachers during his first two cycles.
"Staff Sgt. Badua taught me how to be a drill instructor," he explained. "He really worked me when I was a fourth hat... it set me up for success.
"During my second cycle, SSgt. Nielson taught me how to be a 'J.' There were always new things I had to learn."
Though Small admits he had much to learn when he arrived at the trenches, his peers saw something else.
"He never let his cover and belt go to his head," explained Badua, senior drill instructor, platoon 2014, Fox Company. "He was quick to realize that to be a good drill instructor, he needed only to fall back on being the good Marine leader that he already was."
The leadership Small brought with him came from many areas in the Marine Corps. Joining the Marine Corps in 1989, the St. Louis native was trained as a heavy machine-gunner. Four years later, Small made a lateral move into supply administration. A mere one year later, Small made another career change into his present MOS. That move sent him to bases that covered every military branch with exception to the Coast Guard.
"I have been a lot of places," he explained. "I learned from being on all these different bases that every service respects the Marine Corps. I use this knowledge to let the recruits know the legacy we live up to."
During his adventures across the United States, Small met "a lovely woman named Alison" while stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
"We met in 1995," said Alison, a Career Planner for Marine Tactical Air Control Squadron 38. "When he got orders to come to San Diego, I fought to come out here to be with him."
That fight proved the most rewarding in her life. Currently, the couple has been married for two years and is expecting their first child Dec. 31, a girl to be named after Small's mother Mary.
"My wife understands so much because she is an active duty Marine," explained Small, a smile touching his lips. "She knows how well I want to do my job."
Doing well at his job often means long hours spent away from home.
"We've both been to boot camp," explained Alison, "so I know what being a drill instructor is like as far as the hours go. I'm proud of everything he is."
Small's wife is not the only woman in his life who glows with pride when they speak of him.
"I'm so proud he's my son," said Small's mother, Mary Hodge. "He's very smart and respectful. I know he's training his new Marines to be that way."
Training his new Marines to be smart and respectful are not the only qualities Small instills in them.
"Everything in Fox Company is speed, intensity and discipline," Small boasted. "We train our recruits to be the type of Marines we would be proud to serve with in the fleet."
While training soon-to-be new Marines, Small has had many memorable experiences.
"I'll never forget my first Crucible," he recalled, laughing slightly. "It was like Korea. It was raining sideways and was freezing cold the entire time. Everyone was miserable including the drill instructors.
"As soon as we came off Range 501, the sky opened up and it was a beautiful day. I will never forget that."
He also admits there's one recruit he will never forget.
"Of all the recruits I've trained, recruit Bush has been my biggest headache," he offered. "When he came to recruit training, he was cocky and resisted all authority. When he left, he was a positive kind of humble. Every time I saw his mother, she would cry and thank me for all I did for her son."
Experiences like these let Small know exactly the type of difference he is making in the lives of his recruits. He knows they are entering the fleet disciplined and ready for the challenges they face.
"If I see a former recruit of mine, I want him to be able to say I was the one who taught him discipline," explained the modest Marine. "I want them to be able to say I taught him how to be a man and an outstanding Marine."
Currently, Small has at least two years left before he might run into one of his former recruits. The self-proclaimed 'lifer' will have six years left in the Marine Corps after he leaves here.
"My ultimate goal is to own my own fitness studio," Small said. "If that doesn't happen, I am happy to say that I will have my MOS and my experiences as a Marine to fall back on."