MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Sergeant Benjamin Eric-King Smith has been playing billiards since he was eight years old. He approaches the game as if it were chess, calculating his shots to set up the next one leading to a victory.
Smith takes the same approach to his job as a transportation coordinator for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In this interview, the 24 year old from Wilmington, Delaware, tells us how his passion for billiards has helped bring him and his unit success.
Q: What do you do as a transportation coordinator?
A: I coordinate transportation for the 15th MEU, anything from people to gear. I set up the contacts and logistics to make sure it gets from point a to point b.
Q: How did you get your job?
A: I got really lucky. I was with [1st Marine Division] Headquarters Battalion, about a month and a half ago. I got asked if I wanted to go on a MEU. I said yes, and within two hours I had orders to come here. I was fortunate in that I had the time left on my contract and the skills necessary to carry out this role with the MEU.
Q: Where did your influence come from to enlist in the Marines?
A: I always wanted to be a part of the military. I’ve always had this competitive edge. I played a lot of sports for William Penn High School (New Castle, Delaware). I tried to be the best I could. I’ve always tried to be the best, and the United States Marine Corps is the best. So why would I try for anything less than the best?
Q: How did you start playing billiards?
A: When I was eight years old, my uncle had a billiard table; I just went over one day. He started showing me the ropes. Year after year I started getting better. He would teach me more as I got older. He’s really good and I look up to him. He helped me out a lot. From there I just took it and went with it. My mom gave me my own stick when I was 14 years old. From there I would always go where there was a table, whether it was at a bowling alley or a recreation center, I would play there just to get better. It’s just like any other sport, you have to be consistent with it, and to be consistent you have to practice a lot. So I practice as often as possible.
Q: Was it hard for you to learn?
A: At first yes. I was young. I could barely see the balls on the table. As I grew, it became easier. The knowledge I had prior to being tall enough helped out a lot. My uncle taught me a lot of tricks of the trade here and there, and you pick it up.
Q: How do you feel when you’re playing?
A: Sometimes I’m just there having a good time. Not really paying attention to what’s going on, just hanging out with the guys, and having a good time. Other times, I’ll get really competitive and I’ll zone in. Completely forget about what’s going on. I’ll start off with a break, make one in, and my goal and objective is to get to the last ball, and just finish the table out. I’ll just zone in and hone my skills, and finish the game as soon as possible. The longer you’re there you get tired, and fatigue does have an effect on you.
Q: What’s the hardest part about the game?
A: Consistency. It’s always going to be different. Billiards is a lot like chess. You have to plan your set up, your game plan ahead of time. You play the first shot you have like you’re getting ready to make the sixth shot as well. So you know where the ball is going to end up at, after that you go on until you’re done with the table.
Q: What’s the competition like?
A: The places I’ve been playing at are okay, every once and a while you’ll get a guy who’s really good. So you pick up things from guys that are better than you. I’m not saying I’m outstanding, but I’ve been doing this for a while.
Q: How do you carry your skills in billiards to your job?
A: When it comes to what I do here at the MEU, it’s being able to plan forward. I know that this is going to fall in line to complete a certain mission. It’s the same thing in billiards. You start off with that first shot, and the transition from next shot to next shot gets you to that mission accomplishment of putting that last ball in.
For the Warrior Wednesday video on Smith, visit our YouTube page at: http://youtu.be/qu7tcDpeQ_Y