AL ASAD, Iraq -- When Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Pendracki, a combat cameraman with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd), competed against his fellow Marines to earn the Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2 Marine of the Quarter award, those who knew him best were confident he would win.
“His knowledge as a Marine surpasses anyone I know,” said Lance Cpl. Sheila M. Brooks, a Philadelphia native and coworker of Pendracki’s at 2nd MAW (Fwd) Combat Camera. “He deserved it.”
But Pendracki didn’t necessarily see it that way. He had been on many competitive boards, and hadn’t seen much success.
“For the (MWHS-2) board, I was nervous because I had never won,” he said. “I knew afterward I did well, but even when they told me I had won I didn’t believe it.”
Pendracki took his success further, winning Marine of the Quarter honors for the entire 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. It’s ironic, then, that Pendracki cared less about winning that award than helping his friend, Cpl. James Aguilar, win a meritorious promotion.
“I was more focused on helping (Aguilar). I guess the knowledge rubbed off,” he said.
It was a dramatic turnaround for the Troy, Mich., native, who had initially earned a reputation for liberty antics. Though known around his office for his dedication to work and ability to share his considerable knowledge with other Marines, Pendracki still felt a monkey on his back from a nonjudicial punishment he received early in his career.
“There were a lot of doubters who told me I’d never get promoted, be able to reenlist or do anything because I had a black mark on my record,” he said. “It was something big for me to (be named 2nd MAW Marine of the Quarter), because some said I couldn’t.”
The selectors saw in Pendracki the same Marine respected by peers for his command of videography and photography.
“He brings a lot of experience in our (military occupational specialty),” said Lance Cpl. Eric M. Hooper, a New York native and videographer who works with Pendracki. “He knows how to get things done in the right way and in an efficient manner.”
Pendracki is on his second tour in Iraq. The first time, Pendracki spent time with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 and the 1st Marine Division. He’s now on his eighth month of a yearlong deployment with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, a deployment he volunteered for to join his friends from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.
To those Marines, many experiencing their first deployment, news that Pendracki was going was welcome.
“It gave me a lot of comfort knowing he was going to be out here with us,” Brooks said. “Every day I learn more and more from him.”
Pendracki is proud of being named 2nd MAW Marine of the Quarter, and he’s prouder still that he was recognized by the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps in person. But, Pendracki is most proud that he can be a mentor and a friend to the Marines around him.
“My inspiration is the Marines I work with,” Pendracki said. “That’s why I volunteered to come out here again, because that’s what it’s all about, your fellow Marines.”