MARINE CORPS RECRUITING STATION DETROIT --
In early 2016, Kristen J. Sitek was escorted into Detroit’s Military Entrance Processing Station. She was surrounded by a crowd, all eager to watch their loved ones swear into the branches of the armed services.
For Kristen and her family, it was her younger brother Sean that brought them – he was swearing into the United States Marine Corps Delayed Entry Program. It was her first time at a MEPS, and Kristen says she was proud to be there to watch Sean join the Marines. Unlike the others in attendance, this turned out to be much more than just a first-time visit.
Kristen was the oldest of her siblings. Growing up, she took care of her three younger brothers Sean, Joshua, and Zach. But, after finishing high school, she decided that she wanted to make a life for herself.
“I graduated from high school back in 2010 from Warren Mott,” she said. “I wanted to earn my independence, so I moved into my apartment and found my passion working with animals.”
According to Kristen, she never gave the military much thought until her first encounter with Sean’s recruiter at the ceremony.
“Sean’s swear in was where I first met Staff Sgt. Bland,” she said. “He was very professional and it was nice to finally put a face to the name that Sean was constantly talking about.”
For several months, her brother prepared himself both physically and mentally for the rigors of training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. During this time, Kristen continued on with her life, but grew increasingly interested in the challenges her brother was to face.
“The next time I talked to the recruiters was the day before Sean left for recruit training,” she said. “It was a lot smaller of a crowd compared to the first time at the MEPS center, and the Marines were really great. They answered all of mine and my family’s questions.”
Kristen says she talked with Staff Sgt. Bland about life at Parris Island and the opportunities that the Marines could provide her.
“We often have brothers and sisters join the Marine Corps together. Usually the older sibling will spark the interest, but in Kristen’s situation it was her little brother that set the example and provided the interest,” said Bland. “She saw it as her chance to get out of Michigan and see the world – letting her escape the monotony of the day to day life she created for herself since leaving her parents’ house.”
“I think the biggest push I had for joining was my brother,” she said. “The day before he left for training he made me promise that I would at least attend a few of the Marines’ weekly warrior trainings or a pool function. He told me that he thinks the Marines would be a perfect fit for me. Without that extra push, I don’t know what I would be doing today.”
Kristen ended up attending more than a few trainings at the recruiting sub-station. In fact, by the time her brother graduated from Parris Island and returned home, Kristen only had 10 days left before she started her own journey.
“I wanted to see my brother one more time before I left,” she said.
Kristen excelled in recruit training; upon graduation, she was presented with the honor of “Molly Marine”, earning her a meritorious promotion to private first class. Molly Marines are those who are voted on by their peers during training for having demonstrated the best type of character expected of a United States Marine.
During training, she believed that her maturity among her peers allowed her to stand out as someone that other recruits could trust with their problems and issues. She would also act as a role model to the recruits in her platoon, listening to their problems and motivating them to complete this first step in their careers as United States Marines.
When Staff Sgt. Bland was informed of Pfc. Kristen Sitek’s accomplishments while at Parris Island, he was not surprised.
“Sitek is her own worst critic, which is a great trait to have,” said Bland. “She strives for excellence in everything she does and it doesn’t matter what anyone else tells her.”
Kristen is now in training for the field radio repair field at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California.
“In the Marine Corps, everything is a competition,” she said. “Right now my brother and I are both private first classes, so you could say there is a bit of family competition right now. We will see who ends up on top in the end.”