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Staff Sergeant [now SFC] MacArthur Ocampo was born in Southern California, but at the age of ten he moved to the Philippines to live with his relatives. Graduating from high school at age fifteen (yes, fifteen), he entered university and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science with a minor in Computer Science. His goal… go on to law school and become a lawyer practicing in his adopted country of the Philippines.

But like many young men and women serving today in our military services, his plans were changed. Coming back to the States in 2002 for a vacation prior to entering law school, he started realizing what was happening with his native country, the USA, and the global war on terror that was spreading throughout the world. As he said, “I dug into the patriotic side of myself and disregarded everything I had planned.”

In the heart of the Sunni triangle, the most Violent area in the country

2 BDE, 2 ID was the first unit to deploy directly from Korea to Iraq.

Enlisting in the US Army, it was first off to Fort Benning, Georgia, for Basic Training and then Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Advanced Individual Training. From there, it was an immediate assignment to South Korea where he was at Camp Stanley in Uijonbu. But then in May of 2004, after only being in-country for six months, Staff Sergeant Ocampo volunteered to deploy with the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division to Iraq. This was the first unit to be deployed directly from Korea to the on-going war in the Middle East. And they ended up in Iraq right in the middle of that war as the unit was assigned to Camp Junction City in Ramadi which, at that time, was right in the heart of the Sunni triangle, the most violent area in the country.

Ten months in Iraq and then a return to the States to Fort Carson, Colorado. Fourteen months later, it was back to Iraq to Forward Operating Base Loyalty. This time, since they were a part of the “surge” force, the stay in the war zone was for fifteen months. The unit returned to Fort Carson on New Year’s Day, 2008. They are now preparing to leave for Afghanistan this summer, eighteen months after getting back to the States. On July 1, 1973, the US Army ended the Draft and went to an All Volunteer force. No longer do our young people get those notices in the mail saying, “Greeting from your local draft board.” Instead today, all personnel in the military are there by their choice…they have all volunteered to serve. During the early days of the All Volunteer force, many skeptics predicted it would fail and it would be necessary to revert back to the Draft to fill the ranks of the services. After twenty-six years, they have been proven totally and absolutely wrong!

I asked Staff Sergeant Ocampo what his thoughts were about this method of filling the Army ranks. He was pretty clear:

“The word “volunteer” speaks for itself. I truly believe that serving your nation is the noblest job there is. Each Soldier has their own personal reasons for joining the service, but regardless of that reason, they each come in knowing the dangers and sacrifices that lie ahead of them, especially since the Global War on Terrorism started. I truly believe that Soldiers of today are of the highest caliber. I see it especially in combat where each person is taking care of one another. I see it in the motivation of Soldiers to complete their mission with no personal apprehensions. I see it when Soldiers reenlist to submit themselves to more service to their country. And most of all, I see it in each Soldier who has committed to serve and defend-voluntarily-and willingly lose their life in the service of their country and their fellow man.”

For someone thinking about joining this All Volunteer force, I asked SSG Ocampo what he would tell them:

“I would first ask them the reason why and then give my personal opinion based upon their answer. Generally I would thank them for thinking about serving and then talk a little about reality. I would tell them the military is just not a job; it’s a lifestyle that one must really be committed to. Not everyone will be accustomed to the military once they enter, but with deep motivation, perseverance, and training, the transformation from civilian to Soldier can be accomplished with ease. I’d tell them about the great opportunities and benefits the Army has to offer. I’d tell them about the adventures of being in the Army and the places they may get to go. I’d be up front and honest and tell them about my bad experiences as well as my good ones in the Army. I’d tell them that in the Army the mission and taking care of your people are the two priorities. I would also tell them about the sacrifices one must make as they leave their families for constant deployments to fight people who are intent on killing you and your buddies. I would tell them that you can’t be a part time Soldier; it is a 24 hour, 7 day a week job and way of life. And then finally I would say to them that if they are committed to serving their country, there is no better place to do it, but they must be fully committed before they enlist.”

Here is a young man who finished high school at 15, quickly got his college degree, and was headed for law school to start his life’s career. Then he acknowledged this War on Terror we are in and put aside his ambitions to serve his country. Since being in the Army, he has been to Iraq twice for a total of 25 months, has served in Korea for 10 months, and is currently on his way to Afghanistan for another 12 months of fighting our enemies. He has been in the Army only 72 months. Draw your own conclusions on what our Soldiers are doing for each one of us!

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Mark is a Retired Command Sergeant Major with 26 years of military leadership experience. He held 3 military occupational specialties (Field Artillery, Nuclear Weapons Tech, and Ammunition Ordnance). Mark is one of the leading military authors in the fields of leadership, counseling, and training.

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  • Part-Time-Commander


    Thanks for your service to our great country. Your story is really inspiring SFC Ocampo. Keep up the good work.

  • Mackie


    Hey I know that guy! Hehehe…

    • Preston


      I stumbled across this article the other day. I got about halfway through it before it registered, “Wait… this article is about Mackie.” 🙂

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