NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Italy --
Many would say that being a teacher could be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding, yet hard and stressful jobs around. Corporal Joshua Braun, a ground radio technician with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 14, would agree.
Braun found himself in a non-traditional teaching role right after he graduated from Ashland University with a degree in history and sociology. He worked full time at Mo-Ranch, a summer camp year-round first as a general counselor for two years, then as an assistant director for his third and fourth year working there and his final year as the wilderness camp director.
"I can't speak enough about how much I grew as an individual, while working there," Braun said. "Summer camp is an amazing place and the times I spent working there will always hold a very special place in my heart. I am and always will be a huge advocate for it."
But that didn’t seem to be enough for Braun, a native of Hamilton, Ohio. He wanted to do more and experience more so he took a job teaching English abroad. Braun says he first became interested in teaching overseas through a friend and then began to research it on his own.
“Basically I just found out on the internet,” he said. “I knew there was an avenue to teach overseas, I didn’t have anything holding me back at the time and I wanted to just go out and see the world.”
While teaching in Greece and Kyrgyzstan, Braun says he got to sight see and travel a lot. While he was teaching in Kyrgyzstan, from the fall of 2009 to the summer of 2010, there was a lot of civil unrest in the area at the time, he said.
He recalls one experience during the unrest that he believes also helped push him in the direction of the military.
Braun remembers one time while in Kyrgyzstan, he and four other teachers were at a bar after work, about three days after the unrest started in Kyrgyzstan. The bar owner’s father used to enjoy climbing mountains so the owner kept a lot of old Soviet climbing equipment in a back room after his father passed away.
“We were down there one night in this back room… and all of a sudden these guys walk in wearing these militia uniforms with AK-47’s,” said Braun. “They walk in and point the AK-47 at us and ask us why we’re there because there’s a curfew. So we promptly left and went home.”
"I think that was kind of the tipping point for me as far as joining the Marines, there are a lot of bad people in the world out there that do bad things to good people, so I wanted to help change that," he added.
After a year teaching English overseas, Braun came back to Ohio and taught for another year before finally leaving for the Marines. Although he had already traveled a lot in his career, Braun says he felt like he would always live with regrets if he didn’t join the military.
“I knew looking back on my life the one regret I would have would be to not serve in the military and I don’t like to live life with regrets,” he said. “I wanted to serve my country and I wanted to be a positive influence on the men I served with.”
Braun says he chose the Marine Corps over the other branches because of the challenge that comes with being a Marine and because his brother is a Marine captain who was serving in Afghanistan while Braun was teaching in Kyrgyzstan. "Here I was traveling, sightseeing and just kind of floating around like a leaf in the wind while men like my brother, who's always been one of my biggest role models, were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, and like any man of conscience that really began to tear at me. I didn't want to be the kind of man who doesn't serve his country." Braun said
Although he has only been serving in the Marine Corps for two years and four months, Braun has already excelled past his peers. He was recently meritoriously promoted to corporal on June 2. He also has a certificate of commendation, three letters of appreciation and was chosen as the Marine of the Quarter last quarter, as well as winning the recent meritorious board for his promotion.
“I think the camaraderie I’ve built with the Marines I work closely with would be the highlight of my time deployed,” says Braun. “I enjoy the Marines I work with. That is the best part of my job; a lot of jobs you can’t say that.”
The task force which Braun is currently assigned to is the newest rotation of Marines and sailors to arrive at Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, to stage and prepare for theater security cooperation missions into various countries in Africa. This iteration is comprised of Marines and sailors from 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, permanently based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Since Braun joined the Marines when he was 27, he is a little older and more mature than your typical newly promoted corporal. Marines in charge of him say he sets himself apart from his peers, which is why he was chosen to compete in a board for a meritorious promotion.
“There were multiple reasons why he was chosen for the meritorious board,” said 1st Lt. Robert Lane, the communications officer for the task force and Braun’s officer-in-charge. “It was a mixture between his work ethic, his conduct and his professionalism. Inside and outside of work he is above and beyond most of his peers at that level.”
Although Braun is enjoying his time in the Marines so far, he is still uncertain what he will do next.
I haven't decided if I want stay in the Marines yet, but if I don't I will definitely go back to teaching," Braun said. "I really enjoyed it and I think it would be fun to be a high school social studies teacher. I could definitely see myself as a real life Indiana Jones."