Rising from the bottom to be on top
By Sgt.Kimberly S. Leone
| | September 20, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
At the bottom of society's barrel lie those individuals who succumb to crime, and violence. And yet, as the saying goes, "the cream always rises to the top."
Sgt. Reginald I. Villanueva, a drill instructor with Company M, stands as proof of this tried and true cliché. The 25-year-old describes himself as coming from the bottom of the barrel, giving up friends who were headed in the wrong direction when he chose to join the Marine Corps.
"My family is proud to see that I have found my way out of trouble and reached this level of success," said Villanueva.
The soft-spoken Californian isn't just tooting his own horn. His record of meritorious promotions, military awards and recognition external to the military speak for themselves. And if this evidence isn't loud enough, his day-to-day job performance and the respect he has earned from fellow drill instructors gives credence to his paperwork.
"He is one of the finest (noncommissioned officers) I've come in contact with in the last 10 years," said 1st Sgt. Alan D. Miller, company first sergeant, Company M. "He stands out because of his work ethic, concern for his fellow Marines and his consistent attention to detail."
Villanueva hints that his rise from the bottom of the barrel to the cream of the crop wasn't as smooth as his crisply pressed drill instructor persona lets on.
"I've found everything I needed in the Marine Corps," Villanueva said. "If I wouldn't have joined - with the friends I was hanging around - I wouldn't have been successful."
After recognizing his pursuit of a degree in architecture as a long road involving a lot of expense and few guarantees of success, Villanueva sought out a means to support his fledgling family and establish a career for himself. His desire for fast results led him to the Marine Corps. That same drive, along with a streak of perfectionism, has driven Villanueva to challenge himself in the name of further success and family stability.
Currently serving as one of only two drill instructors for Platoon 3104, Villanueva and his counterpart, senior drill instructor Staff Sgt. Marc S. Whitehurst, make additional sacrifices in the name of producing quality basically trained Marines.
"It's a little more of a challenge to have to be with the platoon and be taking care of all the moving parts," Villanueva said. "There are little things that one D.I. normally takes care of while another D.I is actually with the platoon.
"Sometimes getting enough rest and over tasking yourself are challenges as well," he added without a hint of resentment or complaint.
The additional hours spent aboard the Depot only highlight Villanueva's commitment to devoting time and ensuring strong communication with his wife and children. He describes his wife, Christabel, and children, Messiah, 5, Isiah, 3, and Maiya, 1, as patient and compassionate cheerleaders for him and his career.
"Communication with my wife is very important," he said. "It keeps her sane and it keeps me sane. Whenever I'm not on duty I'm at home."
Villanueva and his team of supporters became part of the drill field family in August of 2001. The military police officer requested the drill field upon successful completion of his tour aboard Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command Twentynine Palms, Calif.
"I actually tried to come to the drill field as a corporal," he said. "It was something I really wanted to do."
Villanueva will take his passion for being a drill instructor to a senior drill instructor billet after saying "congratulations" to Platoon 3104.
"Sgt. Villanueva will have no problems being a senior drill instructor next cycle," said Staff Sgt. Marc S. Whitehurst. "He is mature and will do great things for Mike Company in the future."
As Villanueva approaches the new challenges of being a senior drill instructor, he is quick to give credit and thanks to Marines he has served with during his career.
"The leaders I have been fortunate to have while in the Corps have been very important to my success because they inspired me and challenged me," he said. "I learn something every day. I want to learn something every day. I've learned a lot from my senior drill instructor and the other drill instructors I've worked with."
Among the lessons Villanueva has learned from his fellow Marines are a few bits of wisdom he adamantly passes on to his recruits and to junior Marines.
"Always listen to your subordinates. You can't lead a successful team unless the whole team is with you," he said. "Set yourself up for success by identifying what you want and setting achievable goals.
"Remember a positive attitude achieves positive results."