By Marine Corps Cpl. Joseph Scanlan
Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SABIT QADAM, Afghanistan, April 18, 2014 – The prestige of the Marine Corps especially appealed to a rifleman and mine sweeper deployed here when he enlisted at the age of 17.
“There are a lot of people who have given their lives for this country,” said Lance Cpl. Kyler Nielson, who serves with Charley Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “I feel like it is my duty to serve my country as an able and physically fit individual.”
Nielson, a native of Las Vegas, said he made a bold decision to fight as a Marine infantryman immediately after graduating from high school.
“I initially thought about becoming a Marine during my sophomore year in high school,” he said. “My best friend’s brother was a Marine. He told me about how he provided security for President George W. Bush, and after hearing about the other cool things he had done, it had a big influence on me wanting to become a Marine.”
Nielson said he grew up with a competitive attitude in several sports such as baseball, football, basketball, wrestling and mixed martial arts fighting. A daunting competition awaited him at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif. He departed for recruit training a month after graduating from high school, then he trained at the School of Infantry West. Midway through his training, he was given the option whether to become a rifleman, a machine gunner, a mortarman, an assaultman or an anti-tank missileman. He chose to become a rifleman, the jack of all trades.
During his time at the infantry school, Nielson was told combat deployments were ending and that he would not get the opportunity to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was disappointing news, he said, because one of his main reasons for enlisting was to fight terrorism. After graduating, he received orders to his unit, where he learned the information he had been given was not entirely true.
He began a rigorous pre-deployment training schedule shortly after arriving to the battalion. Nielson trained at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., in support of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, and he completed a mission rehearsal exercise and integrated training exercise at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.
He set himself above his peers during the training evolutions, and became the bearer of the “Suicide” Charley guidon, a relic that has been passed down in the company since the Guadalcanal campaign during World War II. Charley Company is the sole company in the Marine Corps that is allowed to display and carry a second guidon.
“Nielson is a Marine who doesn’t take any shortcuts,” said Marine Corps Cpl. Jared Swiggard, Nielson’s fire team leader and a native of Manchester, N.H. “His performance exceeds what is expected of him, and it’s been that way since he arrived at Charley Company. Even during his own time, he goes out of his way to learn infantry tactics. If something were to happen to me, he would be the one to take control of the fire team.”
Since arriving here, Nielson has been manning security posts and is assigned to a quick-reaction force as the company prepares to turn over full security responsibilities of the base to the Afghan army.
While he’s assigned here, Nielson does not get to experience many of the luxuries Marines have at larger bases throughout Afghanistan. Sleeping on a mattress, indoor plumbing, hot showers and three hot meals a day are nonexistent, but that does not hinder his motivation.
“I love being here in Sangin,” Nielson said. “I don’t need all of the nice things Marines have on Camp Leatherneck. It’s more of a brotherhood out here.”
Following his current deployment, Nielson said, he aspires to become a fire team leader and, ultimately, a squad leader. He is unsure whether or not he is going to make a career out of the Marine Corps, he added, but his eventual goal is to earn a college degree in political science.