San Diego, Calif. --
It takes a dedicated Marine to become a drill instructor and mold the thousands of individuals who step on the yellow footprints each year aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Staff Sgt. Zachary Curran is one of the few individuals who has given up the better half of three years in the Marine Corps to the drill field. Each Marine has their own reasons for choosing this path, for Curran it was due to a tragic event against a dear friend.
In October 2008, one of Curran’s fellow Marines, and his wife, were the victims of a violent crime committed by another Marine who worked for Curran.
“When I heard the news all I could think was, ‘Marines don’t do that, there’s no way,’” said Curran, senior drill instructor, Platoon 2113, Company E, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.
The Marine who committed the crime worked in Curran’s avionics shop and had a hard time displaying the basic customs and courtesies expected of a Marine. When he didn’t show up for work, Curran was stunned by the reason why.
“Something like that rocks your core,” said Curran, 25. “That could have just as easily been me.”
At the time of the crime, Curran was a sergeant stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. He had survived two deployments to Iraq and had orders to a desirable duty station. Curran re-evaluated things for a month, resulting in him turning down his orders to Marine Helicopter Squadron One, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
Three months after the crime, Curran found himself aboard MCRD with hopes of instilling the core values that the prior Marine seemed to lack.
“It wasn’t just something he could add to his resume,” said Pfc. Joshua Hedland, administrative clerk, 2nd RTBn., one of Curran’s former recruits. “He always wanted to train us the right way. You could tell he was doing his job because of a higher calling.”
Although Curran didn’t originally plan to be a drill instructor, now he realizes how rewarding it is to hold the billet. While growing up, Curran would regularly visit MCRD to watch his uncle work, who is a former drill instructor. Due to his uncle’s influence, Curran joined the Marines at age 17, right after graduating high school.
Curran has picked up every rank meritoriously except staff sergeant, which he picked up in five-and-half-years while at drill instructor school. Since being on the drill field he has held the billet of drill instructor for four cycles, and senior drill instructor for three. During that time, he has had numerous honor platoons and set the regimental record this cycle for the practical application exam.
“The real reason I’ve been able to be so successful is because I’m working with the top ten percent of the Marine Corps, my fellow drill instructors,” said Curran.
He has found that if he builds upon his fellow Marine’s valuable assets, then the platoon is more successful. It’s better to know Marine’s abilities then try to change them, said Curran.
“He’s always professional and very determined,” said Sgt. Jose Lopez, drill instructor, Plt. 2113, Co. E, 2nd RTBn., who went through drill instructor school with Curran and worked for him. “He plays a mentor role to the recruit and fellow drill instructors.”
He tries to ensure every recruit comes out of boot camp as more than just a basically trained Marine.
“I want to make sure they’re good for the next year-and-half, until a noncommissioned officer gets a hold of them and makes them even better,” said Curran.
Over the years, Curran has been able to see his efforts pay off through junior Marines. Hedland now works in Second Recruit Training Battalion, helping Curran accomplish his daily tasks.
“Once you hear about your recruit in combat, you start to understand what you’re doing here,” said Curran. “Regardless of what successful thing they’re doing, it gives you a sense of pride that you had something to do with that.”
He came to the drill field hoping to ensure the Marines coming into the Corps were properly trained and had upstanding core values, and so far he’s been successful.
“He taught me to never stop being a Marine,” said Hedland. “You need to have pride in yourself. Even when you take the uniform off, you’re still a Marine. You have to learn how to wear your own skin.”
Unsure of what his Marine Corps career has in store for him next, Curran will be submitting a package to become a warrant officer or officer. He has completed his bachelor’s degree while aboard the depot in hopes to set himself up for further success. Regardless of what billet he takes on next, he plans to use his life experiences to better others.
“I hope to be a valuable asset to my Marines and inspire them,” said Curran. “I want my success to bleed through me to them.”