CAMP PENDELTON, Calif. --
Lance Cpl. Joseph Burk was inspired by his father’s service in U.S. Army. Eager to follow in his dad’s footsteps, but blaze his own trail, Burk enlisted in the Marine Corps as an infantryman.
Burk is a team leader for Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and is responsible for the employment and management of his fire team, as well as making complex decisions on the battlefield in a moment’s notice.
In this interview Burk, 20, from Post Falls, Idaho, tells us where his drive to be a leader came from and how he handles the pressure from the rigors of his job.
<b>Q: What inspired you to join the Marine Corps?</b>
A: It was definitely a lot of influence from my father. He was an in the infantry with the [U.S.] Army. I wanted to be like my dad so when I heard the Marines were the best of the best, and that was all I could think about. I knew I wanted to go infantry in the Marine Corps, and be an infantryman like my dad.
<b>Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?</b>
A: Doing my job. Going out and doing live-fire ranges. There’s no better feeling than firing my [M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle] on full out and sending rounds down range.
<b>Q: You have more responsibility than an average 20 year old. How do you handle the pressure?</b>
A: I’m still pretty young. I mean I’m only 20, but I guess maturity plays a large role in it. The training that the Marine Corps has offered me has made me much more mature. You have to; I’m still [really young], but I’m in charge of adults. There’s no room for error in what we do.
<b>Q: What’s the greatest trait you’ve learned in the Corps?</b>
A: Confidence; confidence to carry out my job and to train my Marines. Again that all comes from the training though. Ours is a job that requires confidence. If you show fear or you’re not sure of what you’re doing, Marines won’t follow you.
<b>Q: You seem to have a knack for what you do. Did you do something in high school that prepared you for the Marine Corps?</b>
A: I did a lot of team sports. I played football, wrestling, and baseball. I also did track for a few years, but doing sports helped me a lot. Not only physically, but that’s where you learn teamwork and brotherhood. Everything you do is for the team. They are all traits similar to the Marines.
<b>Q: You make a lot of decisions based off what is happening in the moment. What is that like, and have you gotten better?</b>
A: As a team leader, there is a lot going through my head. I am focusing on other teams, and seeing what they’re doing, and basing my actions off them. At the same time I’m watching my Marines making sure they’re doing their jobs correctly, while focusing on my weapon and taking on the enemy as well. So there’s so much I’m focusing on all at once, but through all the special training and preparing for worst case scenarios, it makes it a lot easier [to manage]. I wasn’t always at this level. I learned a lot from my team leader, and I’ve gotten better over time.
<b>Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of being a grunt?</b>
A: The hardest part is learning. There is so much knowledge that goes into this job. Especially when you move up in billet, it can be extremely overwhelming. The training we get though sets us up for success.
<b>Q: Do you see yourself doing this for another 16 years?</b>
A: Right now I’m kind of going with the flow. I really do love what I do, but I’ll weigh my options and see what’s out there, but there’s a good chance I’ll be doing this as long as I can.
<b>Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about going the infantry?</b>
A: Don’t do anything you aren’t 100 percent sure about. You really need to want to do this job. I knew this was all I wanted. When my recruiter asked me to list three [military occupational specialties] I’d like to do, I told him infantry and that was it. So if you want to do it, you need to want it.
For the Warrior Wednesday video on Burk, visit our YouTube page at: http://youtu.be/NB8uPawZIEk