MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO --
Lance Cpl. Keith Koch decided to serve his country at the age of 18. The stories he managed to squeeze out of his grandfather, a former soldier with the 101st Airborne Division during World War II, were a big influence on his choice.
He remembers receiving a letter in the mail from a Marine recruiter and decided to follow up on the invitation. Koch, a Juda, Wis. native, stopped by an Army recruiter along the way, but was impressed by the pride and professionalism exhibited by the Marine recruiter.
“I wanted to join the Marines right away, but my dad talked me out of it,” said Koch, Platoon 1035, Company B. “He said if I died, the Koch name would die with me because I was the last male left in our family line.”
Koch was persuaded not to enlist at that time and went to college instead. He studied physical therapy and worked part-time as an assistant at a local hospital.
“I couldn’t concentrate on being a physical therapist because I wasn’t passionate about it,” said Koch.
Koch joined the Navy at 22 and served as an operations specialist for four years. He deployed three times during his enlistment.
“The first two times I deployed, we took the Marines along,” said Koch. “They were completely professional and set the example for the sailors under me.”
Koch said the Marines on his ship absolutely reaffirmed the way he envisioned the Marine Corps.
During his Navy tour, Koch married and had a son. When his contract ended, he did not reenlist, opting to spend more time with his family.
He worked at an electrical company, but found once again he was not passionate about what he was doing. He examined his life and realized the only thing that truly made him happy was serving in the military.
With a son to carry on the family name, Koch said he decided to join the Marine Corps to earn the pride and respect he wanted from the start.
Koch said after discussing the idea with his wife and both agreeing that they were ready for this commitment, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in data communications.
“I’m very proud of him,” said his wife, Candice Koch. “What he is doing is really good for him, his country and his family.”
Candice told him that if he was going to join the Marines he should do it the best he could until he couldn’t anymore. He took her advice seriously, graduating as series honorman and a promoted meritoriously to lance corporal.
He said he underestimated the intensity and what it took to be a good Marine leader. Going through recruit training gave him a new outlook on the Marine Corps’ core values of honor, courage and commitment.
Looking back with experienced eyes, Koch said he knows now what the core values really mean to himself and the Marines he will soon lead. He said he takes pride in wearing the eagle, globe and anchor and looks forward to the respect he will earn with each new chevron.
Koch said remaining humble in boot camp was his biggest challenge. Taking orders from people was a blow to his ego, having more deployment time then some of his drill instructors.
Also, Koch said going from petty officer second class in the Navy to private first class in the Marines—a reduction of three pay grades—was hard to accept. He coped with the situation by reminding himself he was starting over and this was what he wanted to do.
Being out of the service for nearly nine months affected his physical abilities as well.
Regaining the physical fitness he needed to be a good, quality Marine posed another challenge for him to overcome.
He said the Navy prepared him and his family for the inconveniences of military life, such as being away from home and his family, but that he and Candice had a good feeling about the Marines.
“The Marine Corps seems more close-knit,” said Candice. “We think this time around will be a little bit easier.”
Koch said he likes the way the Marine Corps looks out for the families so the Marines can focus on completing their mission.