COMBAT OUTPOST JAKER, Afghanistan --
For some people, history is just another subject in school. For Lance Cpl. Joshua Taylor, being a part of history was a calling.
To follow that calling, Taylor, 21, from Troy, Ala., left behind a full-ride scholarship to college to join the Marine Corps. The only reason he even went to college for a year was because it was free, he said. He’s always had an interest in the military.
“Action movies had a role in it,” he said, but so did his interest in warfare, tactics and World War II history.
Taylor, a 2009 graduate of Pike Liberal Arts School, went to recruit training and then to the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry where he became an infantry assaultman. Following his initial training, he was assigned to 2nd Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
Initially, he wasn’t sure if the Camp Lejeune-based unit was going to deploy, a disappointing possibility for an infantry Marine, he said.
“I wanted to be here before the war was over,” Taylor said.
His best friend, who also joined the Marine Corps, is stationed in Hawaii.
“He said I’m the lucky one,” Taylor said, because his friend also wanted the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan.
Taylor deployed to Afghanistan exactly a year into his enlistment, and just before his 21st birthday. He serves near the Nawa District of Helmand province, and so far, has had a quiet deployment.
“We actually don’t need to be here,” he said. “The Taliban don’t even target us. They target the (Afghan National Security Forces),” Taylor said.
However, the Marines are still a good security blanket for the Afghan National Army and other Afghan forces in the area, he said. Occasionally, the Marines will respond to a call from ANSF for help if they get overwhelmed.
This reactionary approach is part of the transition from coalition-led to Afghan-lead security operations. Marines had been fighting in the lead in Helmand province, then shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghan forces, before beginning to make the transition to an advisor-only force earlier this year.
Taylor, who was 10 years old when the attacks on 9/11 happened, said this transition is a sign of progress in the country.
With less to do “outside the wire,” Taylor and the others in 2nd Platoon pass time at their small combat outpost anyway they can. Taylor said everyone brought laptop computers to watch movies on, and there is a gym with weights and cardio equipment. Once or twice a week he goes to the morale, welfare and recreation tent to check his Facebook account, but he usually tries to keep his mind off of what he is missing back home.
Taylor said he went through recruit training and the School of Infantry with some of the Marines in his squad. They’ve all developed a strong bond with each other, he said.
“I know everyone would have my back just like I would have their back,” Taylor said.
Taylor said it’s too early to decide whether he will re-enlist or get out of the Marines when his four-year contract expires. If he does decide to get out, he will go back to college to become a stockbroker or learn computer security.
Whatever he decides to do, he said, he will be always able to look back at his service and know that he was a part of something bigger than himself.
“I always hoped to be a part of history,” Taylor said. “It’s something I can be proud of.”