2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan, Jan. 4, 2012 – Three years ago, Staff Sgt. James Pribyl, then a Marine Corps recruiter, met Ernest Wetzel at a public library in Wetzel’s hometown of Woodstock, Conn. “I was the new recruiter in town,” said Pribyl, who was based in Worcester, Mass. “About three months after we met, he decided to join.”
Now deployed to Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Pribyl works alongside the young man he helped to become a Marine.
“I never expected to see him again – it’s hysterical,” said Wetzel, now a corporal. “I’ve said it multiple times: ‘Damn, I’m in a combat zone with my recruiter.’”
Both Marines serve with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., which provides aviation ground support for coalition aircraft operating in southwestern Afghanistan.
“It’s one of the reasons I joined -- to deploy. I just never expected it’d be with him,” said Wetzel, who works as a maintenance management specialist with the squadron.
Wetzel’s duties with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 include ensuring a steady supply of parts for the squadron’s heavy equipment platoon. The platoon does everything from moving cargo to constructing helicopter landing zones.
“I’m the first enlisted Marine in my family,” said Wetzel, a 2008 graduate of Woodstock Academy in Connecticut. “I met Staff Sergeant Pribyl and he didn’t lie to me. He set me up with a good job.”
Pribyl, the squadron’s supply administration and operations chief, and a native of Centerport, N.Y., is responsible for making sure assets are ordered and received in a timely manner. This means Pribyl and Wetzel work closely together in a field Pribyl helped the young Marine get in to.
“Supply and [maintenance management] work hand in hand, so I had a lot of friends who were [maintenance management], and I knew he would do well there,” Pribyl said. “He wanted the military. It was just a matter of convincing him that the Marine Corps was the best.”
“It didn’t take long for that,” Wetzel said.
Wetzel described Pribyl as a mentor to him in Afghanistan, but the staff sergeant spoke highly of the young corporal, as well.
“I knew he was going to be a good Marine,” Pribyl said. “I’ve always said it. I always will.”