SHOALWATER BAY TRAINING AREA, Queensland, Australia --
He may barely be past his teenage years, but he has the experience and judgement to lead Marines on the battlefield and into the maw of danger.
Lance Cpl. Theodore Kavich, a fire team leader with 3rd platoon, Company G., Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, is responsible for the management and care of three Marines in his squad.
Outside the Marine Corps, not many 20-year-olds bear the burden of leadership, especially in matters as serious as combat.
“I just got out of my teenage years, and here I am directing my Marines in things like response to enemy contact,” said Kavich, a native of Pasadena, Calif. “Having this responsibility at the age of 20 is not only an honor, but a welcomed challenge.”
Kavich grew up listening to his grandfather’s battle stories, being a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. Regaled with these tales, he entered adulthood knowing that if he joined the Corps, it would be as an infantryman.
“Joining the Marine Corps was something I always had in my mind, but I didn’t want to join fresh out of high school,” said Kavich. “I wanted to come in with a little experience.”
After graduating high school at 17, Kavich went to college for two years and learned what life was like “on the outside.” When he figured he had gone to college long enough and before he missed any opportunities, he enlisted at 19 years of age.
His first assignment, after graduating the School of Infantry, was to his current unit 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. Kavich’s potential for leadership was recognized immediately.
“When he first came to the unit, he took the initiative to help other Marines and get things done,” said Cpl. Moses Weaver, squad leader of 2nd squad, 3rd platoon, of which Kavich’s fire team is part of. “For those reasons, I put him in the fire team leader position, and he caught right on. Whatever task I gave him, he took care of it right there.”
One year later, Kavich finds himself in Australia on his second deployment with the 31st MEU. He leads his fire team in preparation for an attack during Exercise Hamel 2012, the multi-national training evolution between the Marines of the 31st MEU and the Australian and New Zealand Armies.
“That little time he spent between high school and joining the Marine Corps gave him a little time as an adult, which shows in how he leads us,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Munday, squad automatic weapon gunner for 2nd squad, 3rd plt., Co. G., BLT 2/1, 31st MEU. “He’s not a leader that dictates; he works with us and listens to any ideas we may have and implements them into his plans if he thinks necessary. We’ve very confident following his lead.”
The Marine Corps, more so than any other branch of service, places the responsibility of leadership and expectations of sound judgement on young Marines. This unique aspect of the Corps draws a particular breed of individual, willing to make life and death decisions for themselves and their peers on the battlefield.
“You join the Marine Corps knowing there’s a near guarantee you will be deployed,” said Kavich. “That attracts the people who are up for the challenge, especially of becoming an infantryman, regardless of their age. They feel they are ready for whatever is to be expected of them.”
As for the future, Kavich says he will see how the rest of his initial contract will play out. But those in his fire team say his leadership traits could take him far, were he to continue his service in the Corps.
“When he gives an order, there’s no questioning it,” said Munday. “He knows what he’s doing, is confident in that decision and has our interests in mind when making it. Those three traits, which some may need years of leading Marines to get a hold of, are already grasped.”
Elements of the 31st MEU are currently supporting the Australian Army in Exercise Hamel 2012, a certification exercise for the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade. Marines are acting as the opposition force for the Australians, bringing a unique set of tactics to the training environment.
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the nation’s force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.