FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, PA -- Taking the initiative to help those in need, or teaching a valuable skill to those thirsty to learn is an important leadership skill to posses. Sgt. Derek R. Rush is a Reserve Marine from Portland, Oregon, who feeds off the enjoyment of helping others.
Rush is a combat engineer based out of Portland, Oregon with Headquarters and Service Company, 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, and is currently participating with his unit at exercise Red Dagger 2018 at Fort Indiantown Gap in the state of Pennsylvania, May 12-24, 2018.
Rush joined the Peace Corps after graduating from Oregon State University with a Bachelors degree in Political Science and History.
“I went to Senegal, West Africa for public health work,” Rush said. “I went through a public health training program where we also had to learn the culture and language for two months. Following the program, I went to a rural village about 18 miles from any paved road, and started doing public health work.”
Although Rush had a strong background from the training in the Marine Corps, this experience was nothing like anything he had gone through in his entire lifetime.
“They drop you off with all of your stuff and tell you to use what you learned,” Rush said. “After two months you still can’t really speak the language fluently, so that was a struggle. I stayed with a Senegalese host family who spoke Wolof, which is a tribal language. Most people did not speak French, the national government language, because the educational level is too poor to learn anything other than the tribal language that people learn growing up.”
Rush started a malnutrition program for kids who were under the age of five years old. He also built latrines for families who did not have proper facilities to utilize, and started a scholarship program for middle school females.
“They have a very patriarchal culture,” Rush said. “When a woman gets married, she leaves her family to be a part of her husbands family. Families can only afford to educate one or two of their children. So they prioritize by choosing to educate the boys since they will grow up to earn money to support their family, where as, the girls grow up and leave the family to join their husbands.”
“We would help young middle school girls pay for their books and school supplies,” Rush said. “We even held weekend camping trips for the girls and their fathers. We would discuss the importance of education, as well as, the benefits of becoming educated to both, the girls, and their fathers. This was an eye opener for them to really see the opportunities given to the girls for a better future.”
During exercise Red Dagger, Rush is a platoon sergeant and is accountable for 24 Marines. Apart from being a combat engineer by trade, he also plays many different roles for this training exercise, including marksmanship instructor.
“I solely believe that the hardships you go through in life help you to understand other people,” Rush said. “My experiences help me to be empathetic to my junior Marines when they have problems and are not able to succeed. I like to take the time to talk to my Marines, in order to figure out solutions and give them the tools they need to succeed. This training exercise will give me a chance to take on another leadership role and help my junior Marines to learn new skill sets, while also being a part of the interoperability with the British Army commandos.”
Rush joined the Marine Corps Reserve at age 17. He grew up helping the community and volunteering whenever the chances arose.
“I’m a big fan of public service,” Rush said. “It’s done amazing things for me and I have been able to help people along the way. I intend to continue doing public service for the rest of my life.”