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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
DI School student takes comfort in standing out

By Cpl. Eric Lucero | | July 26, 2002

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT PARRIS ISLAND/EASTERNRECRUITING REGION - -- The indoctrination of "doing more with less" has become as much a part of being a Marine as the term devil dog. For one sergeant undergoing training at Drill Instructor School, doing more with less has become a way of life.

The 4-foot-8-inch Sgt. Tama Casilus left Marine Corps Security Forces Battalion, Norfolk, Va., and arrived on the depot to begin DI School July 9.

Like most other Marines, Casilus' thirst for competition and need to stand out made her a prime candidate for the school, said her former staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Donald R. Garland.

"Casilus never had a problem with that," Garland said of the petite sergeant. "She would demand attention and once she had it, she wouldn't disappoint.

"We would have veterans at parades gawk at her," he added. "'Look at that little devil dog strut.'"

Casilus does not consider being shorter than most other Marines a handicap.

"I look at it as a motivational tool," she said laughing. "Nobody wants to get beat on a run by the short sergeant.

"I see it pushes others in one way or another and that makes me feel good. I kind of feel like I'm helping them."

The 23-year-old native of Fond des Blancs, Haiti, first arrived in the United States at the age of 9 after her parents decided to move from her homeland to Orlando, Fla.

"When I arrived here, I was put back a year in school because I didn't know English," she said. "I quickly learned but still graduated a year late."

Immediately after high school, Casilus paid a visit to the recruiting offices to seek something different. After visiting different offices, she made her choice to join the Marine Corps so she may travel and experience new things.

She arrived on the depot in August 1998 and was noticed immediately by her drill instructors because of her height.

"We would run the obstacle course and my drill instructors would yell at the others to try and motivate them," she said. "It was always, 'Casilus can do it, why can't you?'"

It was during recruit training that Casilus' views toward her Marine Corps goals changed.

"The first time we saw our drill instructor, I knew that's what I wanted," Casilus said with a gleam in her eye. "I was like, 'WOW! That's what I want to be.'"

Casilus took the mold of her drill instructor with her to her first duty station in Okinawa, Japan, where she used the squared-away, motivated image to help her win a meritorious corporal board. Aside from being shorter than most others, she had no problem fitting in and making friends.

"I had a lot of fun there," she said. "When I left, I think I was a little too motivated, though."

Arriving at her second duty station in Norfolk, Va., Casilus quickly found that being stationed there was not the same as being stationed in Okinawa.

"In Okinawa, everyone's motivated and every day it's like G-R-R-R-R," she said laughing. "When I got to Norfolk, it was a different world," she said. "Everyone was a little more laid back. It was a little difficult to get used to."

Learning to adapt to her new environment, Casilus managed to excel and pick up sergeant in November 2001. She wasted no time in preparing her package to attend DI School and submitted it just two months later.

Although her supervisors were reluctant to part with her, they have no problem believing she'll not only succeed, but also thrive.

"She's one of our finest," said Garland. ""I know she'll do well. I have no problem believing she'll be one of the honor graduates in her class."

"As far as her leaving, it's a small sacrifice for us to make for such a large contribution she will make to the Marine Corps."

Casilus has a slightly different view on leaving Norfolk.

"I think they were just looking for a reason to get rid of me," she said joking. "They were always like, 'Calm down Cpl. Casilus!'"

The transition form Norfolk to DI School has ushered her back to a highly competitive environment and has left Casilus with a smile on her face.

"This is what I wanted to do ever since I joined the Corps," Casilus said. "It's what I wanted and it's what I'll do."

Casilus and the other members of her class are scheduled to graduate from DI School Sept. 26.

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