Three years into earning a biology degree, Josiah F. Schultz had it made as a college student and was about to graduate. But something was missing, which Schultz knew couldn’t be found in any college classroom.
After Schultz had finished most of his credits and was planning for post-graduation life, serving in the military came to mind.
The El Paso, Texas, native decided to enlist after graduation, and he said he had no problem deciding which branch of service he wanted to join.
“It wasn’t really a question; I knew that I wanted to be a Marine,” said Schultz. “I wanted to conquer my fears. I signed up for the (infantry) field, and I figured that anything I was afraid of would be cured there.”
Schultz shared his decision with his mom and dad.
“We were very surprised,” said Suzanne Schultz, Josiah’s mother. “We told him that if this was his choice, we were proud of him and we supported him.”
They were very supportive, according to Schultz, who said the news surprised his family because no one before him had served in the military.
Schultz told his parents he felt there were freedoms he enjoyed, and it was his turn to fight for his parents’ freedoms, according to Suzanne. “I thought that was admirable,” she said.
Schultz shipped off to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego wanting a challenge, but he soon learned that in recruit training, some challenges are hard to predict.
His maturity and intelligence helped him stand out among the other recruits, according to Staff Sgt. Pedro R. Hernandez, drill instructor, Platoon 3067, Company I.
Drill instructors first chose Schultz to be the platoon’s guide, but that leadership position came too soon and became too hard to bear.
“Being thrown into a place like this at such a fast pace and not knowing what to expect was a little stressful,” said Schultz, who found that even marching with a guidon was difficult. “I just had so many problems with that stick.”
Schultz held the position for only two weeks.
“He did all right,” said Hernandez. “The transition was hard for him, so we gave the position to someone else,” said Hernandez.
Pfc. Jonathan R. Hiller – a recruit who served four years in the Army National Guard as a Black Hawk helicopter engineer – assumed the guide position.
“Around the fourth week, (Schultz) realized this is how it is. He kicked it on from there … 110 percent.”
Schultz experienced the conundrum that everyone wants to be the guide, but nobody wants to be the guide. The guide has the most leadership authority among recruits, but he also answers to practically every mistake they make.
“We really gave it to him,” said Hernandez. “We knew that he was one of the smarter recruits, and that made him a target (worth challenging).”
After losing his position as guide, Schultz’s drill instructors still gave him leadership responsibilities as one of four squad leaders. Recruit squad leaders generally direct about 15 to 20 recruits, so Schultz still had his challenges.
He said his earliest leadership experiences began in El Paso as a teenager on the baseball diamond – experience that has helped him put his leadership theories in perspective.
“It just helps to see everything on the field so you know how everything goes best where,” said Schultz. “In sports, you can’t lead from the back, and leaders have to be on top of their stuff.”
As a squad leader, Schultz finally found his groove, and the training became more natural. He said leading a squad was something he could handle.
When Co. I arrived at Camp Pendleton during the second phase of recruit training, for field exercises and weapons training, Schultz found his niche with the other recruits.
According to Schultz, the biggest challenge during second phase was waking up in the cold air when sleeping outdoors – something all infantrymen must learn.
“During the second phase, it’s not necessarily worse, but it is a little more complicated,” said Schultz. “The new stress didn’t faze me because I knew how to handle it, but the environment was different.”
On a whim, drill instructors can relieve a guide of his duty. In Schultz’s platoon, the position was still within reach. Drill instructors pitted Schultz and Hiller in a physical training competition, but Hiller won and held his title.
“It was too hard to choose because they were both perfect for the position, so I just worked them out until there was only one left,” said Hernandez. “They both have great characteristics about them. (Hiller) has that leadership experience and Schultz is a brainiac.”
Nevertheless, Hiller and Schultz continued to work together within the platoon.
“They compliment each other very well,” said Hernandez, adding that though Schultz did not graduate training as the guide, the entire platoon respected him.
According to Hernandez, Schultz exudes something more than smarts.
“He has got a self discipline, not the forced discipline,” said Hernandez. “He doesn’t just lock up for the drill instructors and wait for them to leave. He is disciplined when we are not around.”
Schultz’s goals exceed becoming a Marine. He hopes to one day become a commissioned officer, but he felt the right way to go about that was to enlist first.
Hernandez asked Schultz why he wanted to be enlisted instead of going straight to Officer Candidate School, and Schultz gave a mature answer.
“He told me that he wanted to learn leadership from the Marine Corps before he became commissioned so that he would be able to lead Marines,” said Hernandez. “I think he found his leadership.”