SOLDIER STORIES: Juggling Roles & Responsibilities
Sergeant Lamont Hicks, a field radio operator serving with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, brushes his 4-year-old daughter’s teeth just moments after waking up. Along with his duties as platoon sergeant and martial arts instructor, Hicks takes on the many challenges of raising his daughter, Lyric, on his own. He recently successfully completed the Martial Arts Instructors course held by 3rd AABn July 9-27.
(Photo and article by Sergeant Michael Cifuentes, 3 August 2012 via DVIDS.)
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - As if life as a Marine sergeant isn’t tough enough, Sgt. Lamont Hicks took on an additional challenge arduous enough to test his mental and physical limits – the Martial Arts Instructor course.
The three-week course is aimed to train Marine leaders to instruct other Marines in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, a staple of the Corps’ warfighter ethos.
Hicks, a 24-year-old who serves with the communications section of 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, said he knew the course demanded more than what is expected of him on a day-to-day basis as a platoon sergeant. Typical to a Marine of his rank, he said he welcomed the challenge.
Atypical of his kind, his challenges extend well beyond his duties at work and with his Marines. Hicks is a father of a 4-year-old girl, Lyric, and it’s just the two of them living in base housing on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., his duty station.
Before a day in the MAI course begins, he’s already faced with obstacles.
On a training day, Hicks rises between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m., giving himself enough time to dress and get ready for the day. Then, he wakes his daughter just before 6:00 a.m. with a subtle whistle, and the morning checklist begins.
“I get her up, make sure she goes to the rest room, brushes her teeth, get her dressed, get her a little snack ready, make sure we have all our things, we head out and I drop her off at daycare,” said Hicks, a native of Arlington, Texas.
Although Hicks’ demeanor in the mornings sometimes expresses sleepiness or exhaustion, Lyric is always engaged in youthful conversation. Her eyes are still a bit puffy when he gets her dressed, but she asks her father questions and divides her attention to cartoons on her bedroom TV. He said sometimes he prefers that she’s still a little drowsy from the early wake-up in order to minimize any discontent she’ll have as he leaves her for the day. But over the course of time the two spent living together, he said Lyric now understands the daily routine.
Because of his priorities at home, Hicks normally catches up with the course just a bit late of start time, which is around 6:30 a.m. for the rest of the class.
From training day one, the course physically tested the 17 Marines who initially stepped up to the challenge. The first two days began with a physical fitness test, a combat fitness test, and sustainment training for tan and grey belt, the first two belts in the MCMAP ladder.
The third day tested more than their knowledge of martial arts and physical strength. The Marines went through a rigorous combat conditioning exercise where they were met with adverse challenges that came as a mental shock to some.
“The course is designed to push Marines to their limits both mentally and physically,” said Staff Sgt. Javier Acosta, a squad instructor with the course and a native of Santa Clarita Valley, Calif. “We wanted to let the Marines know what to expect for the next three weeks. As the course went on, exercises got tougher.”
Training kicked off before sunrise every day and usually started with combat conditioning exercises. Before breaking for lunch, Marines were soaked with sweat and grit.
“Break time was a piece of heaven,” Hicks said. “But the thought that we had to go back was hard on us. I would be beat after the first half of the day, and I knew the second half was going to be harder.”
Capt. Frederick Monday, the chief instructor for the MAI course, said the days were purposely formed to challenge the Marines to the furthest extent.
“We make it mentally and physically challenging to ensure the Marines who’ll be instructing other Marines will never quit, and to give them a sense of accomplishment at the end of the course,” Monday said.
The course culminated with a 15-mile conditioning hike integrated with free sparring exercises, pugil stick bouts, low crawling through a tear gas –infested dirt road and grappling in a waste-deep ocean pocket off Camp Pendleton’s Del Mar beach.
“I thought the day was never going to end,” Hicks said. “If they were trying to push us to the brink of mental instability, they did a pretty good job. But it made the whole course worth it in the end.”
Surprisingly, Hicks said the hardest part of the course was coming home after a day of martial arts.
“I’m all tired and just want to relax, and a 4-year-old really doesn’t understand that,” he said. “They just want to play when I still have homework to do, and I have techniques to go over. Honestly, I’d say she had it worse than I did, because to her she doesn’t understand why ‘daddy won’t play’ or ‘daddy’s looking in a book.’ So it was pretty tough.”
Hicks said he normally puts Lyric to bed at 8:30 p.m., but bedtime for her during the three-week course was moved an hour earlier.
“I put her to bed around 7:30 just so I can have time without having to play a different movie for her, or sing a song with her,” Hicks said. “I have that time to sit, relax and pay attention to my homework.”
The tenacity of challenges in the course didn’t end until graduation was over for the nine Marines who ended up successfully completing. The Marines demonstrated most of the hand-to-hand combat techniques they learned over the course in front of family members, peers and friends who joined to watch the graduation. The Marines didn’t hold back performing all techniques at nearly 100 percent effort.
As he graduated the course, Hicks gained a secondary occupational specialty and is now trained to train Marines in MCMAP.
“We now have nine Marines who know what it means to lead, know how to lead their peers and further develop their junior Marines so that when they move up in rank to be staff noncommissioned officers, they’ll have a strong NCO corps,” said Monday, a native of Burtonsville, Md.
Hicks ventured into the weekend after the course graduated with one mission in mind – to treat himself and his daughter to a weekend of relaxation.
“We stayed up super late that weekend,” Hicks said. “Some of the class members even came over to hang out, and my daughter enjoyed the company. We just hung out, relaxed and had a good time.”
The challenges of raising his 4-year-old still continue, but he said she makes all of the obstacles he goes through in his career well worth it.
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