Baton Rouge, LA (FOX44) — Andrew Nackley passed a big milestone when he earned his promotion to Staff Sergeant earlier this month.
"The level of responsibility goes up considerably," he stated.
But SSgt. Nackley is not the typical career Marine. Instead, he is the Marine who had a full career before enlisting.
He spent more than 10 years in the radio industry, working at WLSU and a station in Berkeley, California. He considered joining the military out of high school, but did not feel the time was right. As the years passed, his itch to serve intensified.
"This is something that I wanted to do for a career," he said. "And I think having worked in the civilian sector for a long time before actually joining the Marine Corps, I kind of have a different appreciation for what the Marine Corps has to offer as a career."
He loves history, particularly World War II, and had relatives who served in Vietnam, Korea, and World War I. As time passed, he grew disenchanted with radio, and in 2002 he decided to follow in the footsteps of some of the great leaders he admired. Part of the process would mean convincing his girlfriend (they married in 2007) to follow him.
"I think it was a little bit of a surprise for her at the time. I think she has been happy with it and content with it since then. It's given us a lot of security and a lot of, sort of a path to progress that I certainly didn't have before I joined the Marine Corps."
At the age of 33, he signed up an became an intelligence analyst. He was a reservist until 2006, spent a year at a base in southern California and a year in Iraq before settling in at Marine Force Europe's base in Stuttgart, Germany.
Most Marines sign up in their late teens or early 20's. But SSgt. Nackley says waiting until his 30's made it a lot easier.
"Going to college was a big thing," he explained. "And going to college and sort of learning how to learn."
Eleven years later, Nackley and his wife now live year-round in Germany. And while there are times when he misses home, he loves the sense of purpose he feels every day on the base.
"I never really had that in the civilian sector. In the military, I do. And that is driven home to me on a daily basis. But there are those moments that it's really driven home. When you see somebody get hurt, or when you hear about somebody who gets hurt, you want to prevent those things. You want to work so that that doesn't happen again. You want to work for mission success."
The promotion means SSgt. Nackley is now a staff non-commissioned officer, and will be eligible for a significant pension at the end of 20 years of service. That gives him a sense of financial security for his family. He knows that, because of budget cuts and the desire to withdraw troops from foreign theaters, many Marines including himself will soon have to leave active duty.
"And for a lot of us who've been mobilized for lengthy periods of time, those fun days are kind of coming to an close, he mentioned. "But it's been a good run."