AL QIAM, Iraq --
Marines all over the Corps are always stepping up to the plate regardless of the situation.
In a combat environment that plate can seem even bigger and more demanding, but for some Marines it is just another day at the office.
For one Marine in particular, Lance Cpl. John F. Czujko, an embarkation specialist for Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, that plate means filling a staff sergeant billet as the Al Qaim embark chief.
“He is my one embarker here to run the (Arrival and Departure Airfield Control Group) here,” said Gunnery Sgt. Dale R. Lubes, the Al Qaim Forward Aerial Refueling Point, MWSS-271 staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “So he is here every single flight running all the cargo and personnel that goes in and out. It’s phenomenal that a young lance corporal can handle the job, and he’s just been a tremendous asset to us.”
As the only embarkation specialist in Al Qaim, Czujko has a huge responsibility on his shoulders; a responsibility that affects service members and civilians throughout Iraq.
“My job entails moving personnel and embarking the cargo in and out of whatever flights on (CH-53s) or (CH-46s),” explained Czujko. “It’s not extremely hard, but I really like the job. It’s like working for UPS. I’m the only embarker here so I’m in charge, so I have a lot of responsibility in what I am doing. All the corporals work the bird and I am the lance corporal in charge and it’s kind of good.”
The Garfield, N.J., native, joined the Marine Corps in 2005 and was attached to Marine Wing Support Group 27 before being attached to MWSS-271 to serve as the embark chief.
“I always wanted to join the Marine Corps and my younger brother joined,” said Czujko. “I was a fireman in New Jersey and 9-11 hit home, so that really boosted me to join.”
Although when he first got here it was almost a trial by fire, Czujko feels that he got the hang of things and has had a successful deployment. Between learning new things and filling a staff sergeant’s billet, it is a deployment that he will not soon forget.
“I have gotten to learn a lot,” said Czujko. “It’s completely different loading up helicopters than loading up C-130s or C-17s. Out here it’s really different from Cherry Point, that’s why I really liked it. When I got here I only had 12 hours to learn everything. I really didn’t have much of a change over and I was really nervous, but the first week it just started rolling in and everything just started fitting. The Marines that work with me are great and that made it a lot easier for me.”
Czujko was not the only one worried about his job as the embark chief.
“At first I was a little nervous; when we first came out here I didn’t know that we would be running the ADACG,” said Lubes. “I was like ‘Ok how are we going to do this? They had a staff sergeant doing it, I have a young lance corporal. We’ll just see how it goes.’ He never skipped a beat.”
“I was the first one here and nothing changed from when Lance Cpl. Czujko took over for the staff sergeant,” added Lubes. “He is a very bright kid; he’s got a great future.”
People always have different reasons for their success in life, for some its perseverance or attention to detail, but for Czujko it is closer to home.
“I attribute my success to the way I was brought up by my dad, I used to work construction with him,” explained Czujko. “I guess I was just brought up right, do it right the first time or don’t do it at all.”
While his father taught him to be a man, his military occupational specialty school instructors were busy ensuring that he became a proficient embarker.
“The teachers were great, they taught me everything that I ever needed,” said Czujko. “I still even have the books they gave me and if I get lost I can even e-mail them and they’ll help me out. They were great teachers.”
Despite having a natural talent for his MOS so early, Czujko will probably not make a career out of the Marine Corps. After serving his time he will return to something that has a special place in his heart.
“I want to go back to New Jersey and join the fire department again,” said Czujko. “I was a volunteer, but I want to go back paid. It’s just something that I really enjoyed. I just wanted to put in a good four years and go back up there.”
As Czujko’s seven-month deployment draws to an end, he was recognized for his efforts and was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
“He is invaluable, for a lance corporal to come out here and take over for a staff sergeant; everyone wants a Marine like that,” said Lubes. “He is priceless.”
After learning his job, getting comfortable and into the flow of things, Czujko can look back and say he enjoyed the added responsibility and his deployment.
“I loved the responsibility and it really made the deployment fly by, doing what I’m doing out here and being the only one. For a first deployment this was great, hopefully the next deployment is just as great. I feel really good so far; I hope I’m helping people out over here, helping the Marine Corps doing what they need to do.”