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May 15, 2004

Military Intelligence

I've always been irritated by people who discount the intellect of those who choose to defend their country. I've had a number of conversations with folks who believe that our troops are those who couldn't afford college, couldn't find a job, or couldn't hack it in the real world.

Not true. I've spent much time talking with Marines who volunteered to work long hours for low wages and spartan living conditions. Why do they do this? There are many reasons, but the one that I hear most often is so that their families and friends can enjoy living in a free society. And they have not only intelligence but common sense and a strong moral determination to do what is right. They are amazing men and women - the best that this country has to offer.

My own son, currently training to return to Iraq later this year, is a case in point. I would have paid his tuition to any college he chose to attend. He chose to attend USMC Boot Camp instead. And, his requested MOS was infantry. His reasoning was, "They need smart people in infantry too, Mom." And he's done very well.

Here's another example, albeit far out on the right side of the bell curve, of a young man who looked at his many options and chose the U.S. Marine Corps. Meet PFC Billy McCulloch.

Photo and story by LCpl Jess Levens
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif., May 14, 2004 ? Television shows about child geniuses have captivated American people for decades: "Doogie Howser, M.D.," "Malcolm in the Middle" and even Cartoon Network's "Dexter's Laboratory" have captured hearts of nearly everyone that watches. One show, however, may never exist: "Pfc. Billy McCulloch, U.S. Marine."

McCulloch, 18, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry before he was old enough to vote.

While growing up in Seguin, Texas, McCulloch learned at a rapid pace at his private school. He was so far ahead of his classmates, he was allowed to skip seventh and eighth grades.

"I just seemed to understand," said McCulloch. "Science came pretty easy."

At the age of 12, McCulloch began his freshman year of high school. Later that same year, he took a placement test from Duke University and placed in the top one percentile.

"I did so well on the test, I was allowed to go straight to college," said McCulloch.

So the boy genius enrolled at St. Phillip's College, which is near his home.

"I had a chance to go to Duke, but we couldn't afford it, and it was too far from home," said McCulloch.

The Marine said he fit in with other students despite the age gap.

"At first it was weird having my mom drop me off at college every day," said McCulloch. "But I realized I wasn't even old enough to drive, so there was no shame in that. I actually got along with everyone. I guess age doesn't really matter. We were all science geeks and we had a good time together."

After his third semester at St. Phillip's, McCulloch transferred to Texas Lutheran University to finish his degree.

He graduated when he was 17, and despite his educational victory, McCulloch had another dream: the Marine Corps.

"I've thought about the military for a long time," said McCulloch. "I knew it had to be the Marines because they're the best. It's common knowledge. Every Marine is a rifleman first, but every airman or sailor isn't. I know I can count on my fellow Marines every time."

McCulloch looked into becoming an officer but was unable to because he didn't meet the minimum age requirement of 20 years old. He decided to enlist.

"I wanted to join right away," said McCulloch. "There was no way I was going to wait around until I was old enough to be an officer."

McCulloch joined as an infantryman for several reasons.

"I want to go out and see all that I can," said McCulloch. "If some combat is involved, great. I just want to be out there in the thick of it."

While preparing for life in the Corps at recruit training, McCulloch's knowledge and organizational skills helped him become the platoon scribe. The scribe helps the drill instructors with administrative duties.

"McCulloch is a smart kid," said Sgt. Kent Sabido, one of McCulloch's drill instructors. "We give him a task, and we don't even have to explain it to him. He just figures it out."

Although Marine Corps recruit training doesn't call for much chemistry, McCulloch still found ways to put his skill to use.

"One time, there were some spots on the floor and nobody could get them up," said McCulloch. "I went into the gear locker and mixed some chemicals and it took the spots off."

McCulloch graduated April 2, 2004 in front of his family and peers. "While "Pfc. Billy McCulloch, U.S. Marine" will never grace TV land, the sight of him walking across Shepard Field as a Marine will remain in the minds of those close to him.

Posted by Deb at May 15, 2004 12:06 PM


That kid is going places.


Posted by: Michael at May 19, 2004 09:36 AM

The Iraqis could have a very fine country if they'd just let things be.
In Australia,in WW2, we had over a million American Servicemen land on our shores.To a country scarred by depression, they brought a new hope and belief that things could be done.
At the end of the war,realising the large number of American lives saved by the Australians at the Battle of the Coral Sea,and at Guadalcanal(the Coastwatchers gave advance warning of Jap attack);the wonderful Americans offered to build a six-lane highway from Sydney to Brisbane at no cost, just a few tollways..
Unfortunately their offer was refused,and the road to Brisbane claims countless lives every year as a result.
I wish we had boys like your son building up our country!

Posted by: Phil Ambler at May 24, 2004 10:00 PM