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Face of Defense: Captain Lives His Childhood Dream in Marine Corps

By Marine Corps Capt. Jordan Cochran 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

ABOARD USS BATAAN, Aug. 9, 2017 — Ever since Marine Corps Capt. Dakota Herpich was a boy in Rolla, Missouri, he knew he wanted to be a Marine. On Sept. 11, 2001, a sixth-grade teacher entered his classroom and turned on the television.

"I remember him running in and turning the TV on, when I saw the towers fall I remember being confused," Herpich said. "I couldn't comprehend the hatred someone must have felt towards us to do such a thing. But that opened my eyes to a world outside my little corner. It showed me that there are people all over the world that needed my help."

When he was little, Herpich said, A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft occasionally flew over his house near Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

"I always wanted to fly them," he said. "That's when I started reading every book I could get my hands on [that was] military-related. I basically cleaned my school library out of books that had anything to do with the military. There were a couple of books that were Marine Corps history books, and that was what truly spiked my interest in the Corps. It made me want to join the Marines to help people who can't help themselves.”

Helping People in Need

Herpich first got his wish to help those in need in October, when he deployed to Haiti as part of Joint Task Force Matthew with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit to assist in humanitarian and disaster relief operations after Hurricane Matthew caused widespread flooding and damage there.

"My team and I provided aircraft security each time they touched down at the airfields," he said. "With the lack of security present from airport security teams, coupled with the state of the country, protecting our assets on the deck was vital."

On the first flight out, he said, his team conducted an island survey.

"We flew over the entire island, getting eyes on the areas of interest and the most hard-hit areas to assess where to distribute aid," he added. "I knew this is why I joined the Corps. I was proud to be there and only wished we could have done more."

Responsibilities During Deployment

Herpich is deployed with the 24th MEU, serving aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan as the officer in charge of the law enforcement detachment, responsible for the MEU's military working dogs, a forensics lab, personal security details and detainee handling. The 24th MEU is operating in Europe and the Middle East, providing crisis response and contingency support for combatant commanders, including maritime security operations, humanitarian assistance and advance force operations.

"I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers I get from back home," Herpich said. "It means a lot when we're out here."

Recalling his own childhood dream, the captain said boys and girls who are interested in joining the military will find it worthwhile if they do. "If someone wants to join the Marines, I would say take it seriously and work hard," he said. "You will have opportunities you never would dream of in a million years."

After his deployment, which is expected to end next month, Herpich said, he hopes to become an instructor to mentor the next generation of Marine Corps officers.
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