ALI AL SALEM AIR BASE, Kuwait — U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Marcos L. Benavides is passionate about being there for his Soldiers.
“I just want to help them and make sure that they’re set in life or their military career, things I wish somebody had told me when I was younger,” the ammunition specialist said.
Benavides, 29, is currently assigned to the Los Angeles, California, based 311th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, and is close to wrapping up a deployment here supporting the 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, 1st Theater Sustainment Command. 1st TSC is responsible for sustainment operations throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
The staff sergeant took a few moments away from his work supervising ammunition distribution missions to talk about why he serves.
‘Somebody’s making a man out of me’
Even though Benavides was not alive in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address encouraging public service and civic action by stating, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country,” the echo of the words reached the Soldier when he was a young man.
That quote, combined with learning about the terrorist attacks on 9/11 occurring when he was in the fourth grade, set the Rialto, California, native on a path of service.
Benavides said he did not know which branch he wanted to serve in, he just knew he wanted to serve.
His uncle, Luis Arnada, an immigrant from Bolivia, served in the Navy to earn his citizenship. He considered the Navy, but was introduced to the Army in high school through an Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program.
“I was still 16 when I went to the recruiter,” Benavides said. “The recruiting commander was like talk to this NCO here, he’s a Reserve recruiter, and [that NCO] talked me into the Reserves.”
The Soldier said when he got home and told his mother, Cecilia, she was hesitant. He convinced her to meet with the recruiter, however, and the recruiter “sold her too.”
Benavides said his mother made a deal with him: she agreed to sign the papers for him to enlist in the Reserves with the split training option if he agreed to get his associate’s degree. The Soldier agreed to his mother’s terms, and enlisted on Dec. 18, 2008.
Benavides shipped out to Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training upon completing his junior year in high school.
“I thought I was prepared for it but I wasn’t, it was an eye opener for sure,” Benavides said, laughing. “Being raised by my mother, I kind of got my way a lot, so now that I’m out here at 17, and somebody’s making a man out of me—‘oh so this is what authority looks like, I’m going to learn today’—I learned real quick.”
Benavides said it was tough, but he made it through the training by adjusting his mindset.
“Looking back now it was fun—it was a lot of training, a lot of good stuff—but at the moment it was the scariest thing I had ever done,” he said.
After he graduated from high school, the Reservist attended advanced individual training at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Once back home in California, Benavides fulfilled his promise to his mother by earning his associate’s degree in criminal justice, and moved forward with his civilian and military careers.
Benavides was deployed to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, from 2013-2014, and was deployed on his first combat tour to Syria in 2018, where he worked transporting ammunition.
While in Syria, the Soldier sustained an injury to his left arm and shoulder that required rehabilitation once he redeployed. He spent six months at the Warrior Transition Unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and was cleared to continue serving.
Not long after he returned home, Benavides’ first sergeant asked the noncommissioned officer to deploy again. Benavides jumped on the offer and deployed here to provide material handling equipment for all arms, ammunition, and explosives movements in and out of Kuwait’s In-Transit Munitions Facility.
Benavides said he has enjoyed the mission because it has allowed him to grow in his field.
“Coming from the company level, I got to experience the higher echelon movements of ammunition and explosives for the CENTCOM theater, and with the closing of Afghanistan—that was one for the books,” he said. “The reason I joined [this deployment] was because of that war, and getting to see it close down and helping with the retrograde will always be a cherished memory.”
Benavides is slated to redeploy in November. He is excited to get home and jump back into the logistics field, or to pursue his bachelor’s degree—he has not decided which path he will take. He does know he will continue to serve, however, because he said it gives him an opportunity to impact the lives of young men and women.
“As a reservist you’re stuck in the same neighborhood, you’re stuck in the same city, you’re going to a unit that’s near your house, so if you live in a really rough spot you’re still going to be influenced by that same neighborhood—even if you’re in the military, even if you have the training,” he said. “With me, and I know this, I can help guide them in making the right decisions.”