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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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DI dad keeps commitment

By Cpl. Edward R. Guevara Jr. | | September 17, 2004

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- He committed to training new Marines, and he said that's what he'll do, even if he must be away from his son and daughter.

Platoon 1097's senior drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Michael J. Brown, has served the last two years with Company B. The Marines there have supported him since he came to the company while in the final stages of a divorce. He was a single parent on drill instructor duty, away from his 7-year-old daughter Alexis and 4-year-old son Tyler.

"When I was in drill instructor school, (the faculty) noticed I was going to be a single parent and warned me it was going to be difficult," said Brown.

His leaders gave him the option to go back to the operating forces instead of pursuing the drill field.

"I made a commitment and didn't want to back out," Brown said, who wanted to be a Marine Corps drill instructor.

He is passionate about training new Marines and willing to make personal sacrifices because recruit training was a life-changing experience for him when he was a teenager.

"The judge said to pick a branch," said Brown. "I was a piece-of-crap teenager and my drill instructors changed my life. I was the worst person on earth. The drill instructors took all that hate I had as a kid and instilled the values of a Marine: they don't lie, cheat, steal ..."

He has since shown his commitment, not only to being a drill instructor, but also to paying gratitude for the training his drill instructors gave him.

Since coming to the drill field, he has trained three honor platoons and earned three "Band of Brothers" awards for teamwork. Today's honor platoon - his platoon - also broke a record for highest physical fitness average. The record was more than 40 years old.

He's done all this while trying to be a good father for Alexis and Tyler. But it hasn't been easy. Joint custody gave him the children for six months of the year.

"He kept them for four months," said Staff Sgt. Robert J. Gomez, senior drill instructor, Platoon 1094, Co. B.

"I couldn't do it," said Brown, who received helped from a girlfriend and a fellow drill instructor's wife. "I would leave for work at 0500 and return at 2200. I would never see them."

At the end of Brown's third cycle, he was forced to give them back to their mother, who flew out to get them, according to Gomez.

"It pulled him away from his kids and they were homesick," Gomez said. "The company gave him a few days off to take them to Disneyland and other places they could only go on the West Coast. Those were things he wanted to do with them while they were here, but never had time for."

His fellow drill instructors saw how it affected him.

"He loves his kids to death, and not being together with them takes its toll on him," said Staff Sgt. A. J. Towle, senior drill instructor, Platoon 1093, Co. B. "He sees other drill instructors with their kids and he always wished he could be home with his. My kids are here and I don't see them much; he never sees his."

"From a father's perspective, I have two little girls and whenever he sees them, you can see it in his face," said Gomez. "I came to work to brag about their first day of school and he had to miss his son's first day. It's the little things like that that he misses."

At one point, the company first sergeant talked to Brown about moving on to alternative drill instructor duties on the depot, allowing more free time to raise children.

"I said no to it because there are more drill instructors out there who deserve it," said Brown. Those duties normally are assigned to those having completed all their required training cycles.

After fulfilling his commitment to train new Marines, he takes advantage of the breaks between cycles that companies get every three months. Sometimes they are long enough for him to visit his children.

"I travel 3,000 miles round-trip every break," Brown said. His ex-wife allows him to take the children the entire time he is in Hardin, Texas, which is only for a week or two. "I take them to the movies, the park, and we make numerous trips to Chuck E. Cheese. I also go to my daughter's school to eat lunch with her."

Drill instructors within his company agree that they make it a team effort.

"The camaraderie here at Bravo Company makes the days go by," said Gomez. "We always help each other out when it comes to kids."

Brown is looking forward to his last cycle. After that, he has plans to bring back his children so they can live with him.

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