AL ASAD, Iraq -- Marines are known to be flexible; whether on deployments serving as individual augments or working outside their occupational military specialties, they are always trying to help anyway they can.
Lance Cpl. Randy Graftema is a heavy equipment mechanic for the Marine Tactical Air Control Squadron 28, showing a little flexibility on his current deployment here.
“When you want something done and you want it done right the first time, you call Graftema,” said Staff Sgt. William D. Lee III, the MTACS-28 utilities chief. “He is your able, hard-charging lance corporal.”
Although Graftema primarily works on heavy equipment, he is also working outside of his MOS during his current deployment.
“He has spent a lot of time (on-the-job training) as an electrician, a generator mechanic and air conditioning guy,” said Lee. “If we are short a man, I tell him to help the AC guy, he’s learning a lot. Without people like Graftema that can come over and be flexible and learn new trades and assist everybody in everything, this job would be a lot harder.”
Graftema, who deployed his first time with MTACS-28 as the most junior Marine, has shown vast improvement in becoming a valuable member of the squadron.
“Last year he was the boot and didn’t know much,” said Lee. “We put him to work and he worked hard. This time he’s got a few more junior Marines that came to the unit. Now he is the guy in charge, he knows what’s going on and is locking them on. Having him here the second time around is invaluable.”
Graftema does not look at learning new trades as just something that he has to do, but as a way to acquire life-long skills.
“I love to learn a lot of different things, because a lot of trades that I have learned will help me out,” Graftema explained. “When I am working with stuff at home, instead of having someone come do something for me, I can do it myself.”
Graftema’s mechanical inclination was sparked by his country lifestyle.
“I worked on a lot of farms most of my life and got into heavy equipment and diesel mechanics that way,” said Graftema. “I was working with my uncle when I was younger and we would always work on tractors. I always had fun getting greasy and dirty. It was something that I did when I was real young and kept going.”
The Coopersville, Mich., native, joined the Marine Corps in December 2004 with the intentions of mastering his trade, while experiencing new things.
“I wanted to go places and see things,” said Graftema. “I wanted more experience in my job, because this is what I did before I came in the Marine Corps. I also wanted more experience on other equipment.”
Graftema was drawn to the Marine Corps because of family, but was really interested in making a mark for his family’s name.
“Two of my cousins were in the Marine Corps,” said Graftema. “None of my family on the Graftema side have ever served in the Marine Corps and I said hey if I’m going to do it, might as well be the best.”
The highlight of Graftema’s experience in the Marine Corps has been his deployments.
“The first time being out here was a different experience and a lot of fun.” explained Grafetma. “This time, when I first got here they sent me to Fallujah. I was there for five days. Then I went to Habinyah, where I worked for a (Military Transition Team) and I ran a 240 Golf (machine gun) on top of a turret. It was a whole different experience. So far I have really enjoyed this deployment.”
Graftema is also the type of Marine that will not only help the Marines around him, but lifts their spirits.
“He went over to Habinyah with nothing but smiles and brightened that place up,” said Lee. “He is one of those guys who has no enemies. Everyone loves Graftema, there’s no way around it. He is a key element on our day-to-day job, to get us through the long days.”
Graftema is currently undecided if he wants to reenlist, but is certain about his future aspirations.
“I have been back and forth (about reenlisting),” Graftema said. “When I do get out, I want to start my own shop and start out on small engines and work my way to automotives and to heavy equipment.”