DUGWAY PROVING GROUNDS, UT, UNITED STATES --
With 13 years of experience as an artillery Marine, Staff Sgt. Travis J. Zurick calmly observes as his Marines shoot 200-pound rockets at targets 40 kilometers away in the windy and desolate terrain of Dugway Proving Grounds, Utah.
“The artillery shapes the battlefield,” said Zurick, a Marine with a field sunburn and uniform covered in dust.
Regardless of his love for the artillery field and all his Marines within Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment; becoming an artillery Marine was not always Zurick’s plan. Shortly after Sept. 11, he decided to join the Marine Corps as an officer. In the midst of his preparation for Officer Candidate School, however, he had a setback.
“I was training with a friend of mine, when I pushed myself a little too far and injured my elbow,” he said. “I ended up tearing the cartilage out of my elbow. I could no longer do pull-ups, push-ups or any other sort of rigorous exercise.”
With his elbow injured, Zurick's OCS aspirations were temporarily off the table. But that did not stop him. He had his mind set on earning the title of Marine, and after recovering from his injury, he decided to take a different route into the Corps and enlist under a reserve contract. Zurick became a basic artillery cannoneer in 2005. Later, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, where his battalion shot more than 50 artillery missions.
The Marine Corps values initiative in its Marines, and Zurick is a good example. His attitude has always been to volunteer for everything.
He recalled a time that his sergeant major was left with an open slot for Airborne school after the individual slated for it backed out at the last minute. Zurick saw an opportunity and took advantage of it.
“Within seconds, I put my hand in the air and said ‘sergeant major, if you let me, this Marine will go today!’ and a week later I was on my way to the school.”
Zurick explained that if Marines have the motivation and dedication, the Marine Corps will always take care of them. They just need the confidence to put their hands in the air and keep their minds open for any opportunity that might show up.
“I am sort of a jack of all trades. I have done all sorts of work, such as roofing, landscaping, construction, plumbing, etc,” he said. But the Marine Corps is where he truly feels at home.“To be a Marine and to be around other Marines along with the camaraderie that comes with it is simply fantastic.”
Considering his passion for the Marine Corps, Zurick explained that it was tough to decide whether to sign an active duty or reserve contract, but he has no regrets with choice to go the reserve route. Being a Reserve Marine is like having the best of both worlds, he explained. The Marines Corps teaches discipline, and the core values instilled in all Marines helps set Reserve Marines apart from their peers in the civilian world. He added that civilian jobs also provide extra skills that can contribute to making them better and more capable Marines.
“The great thing about being a Reserve Marine is that our civilian jobs help us bring an extra expertise to the fight,” he said.
He also values the ability to stay with the same unit and serve with the same Marines that duty in the Reserve Component frequently provides.
“Any typical active duty Marine, has to change duty stations every few years but I have been with the same battery in the last 12 years,” he explained. “I know all my Marines. I know them very well, I know what they are capable of and I also know their families.”
With a smile on his face, Zurick relayed that his original plan was to enlist for a single contract. Yet, 13 years later, he is still going strong, joking that he doesn’t plan on stopping until the Marine Corps gets tired of him and kicks him out.