CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan --
In 2001, a surge of applicants lined up at the doors of recruiting offices, eager for a chance to defend the nation’s honor after the terrorist attacks on our nation. For Staff Sergeant Harry Petit-Homme, his choice to join the Marine Corps had already been made.
“I had already joined the Delayed Entry Program and when 9/11 happened, my shipping date got pushed back a couple weeks,” said Petit-Homme. “Going through boot camp there was a lot of talk of going to war.”
Petit-Homme was born in Nassau, Bahamas and lived there until 1997, when his mother moved their family to the United States. Originally from Haiti, his parents had a negative view of the military.
“The military was basically the president’s gangsters in Haiti, so my family’s perception about the military isn’t what it’s like in the U.S.,” said Petit-Homme. “My family thought I was crazy for signing up.”
After six years in service, Petit-Homme finally obtained his U.S. citizenship.
“It was an accomplishment for me but also something I did for my mom,” said Petit-Homme. “She was the one who got our family our green cards and she had always been the one who wanted to become a citizen.”
As a career Marine, Petit-Homme chose recruiting as his special duty assignment, returning to Miami to enlist future warriors.
“The station I was recruited out of is the same exact station where I became [staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge],” said Petit-Homme. “Being able to end up where I started out was rewarding. It was a good point for me to be able to show how far I’ve come.”
Throughout his enlistment, Petit-Homme has had the chance to travel the world. As part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, he visited many places including Thailand, Guam and Korea. When he was stationed in Spain, he visited countries throughout Western Europe and worked with the French Marines.
“Travelling was one of the main things I wanted to do, and the Marine Corps has helped me accomplish the goals that I set for myself,” said Petit-Homme.
In 2004, Petit-Homme deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and is currently serving on a second combat deployment in Afghanistan as an advisor to the Afghan National Army. As part of the Embedded Partnering Team, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), he works as the transportation advisor to the 5th Kandak, 1st Brigade at Camp Garmser, Afghanistan.
“Right now we’re helping the Afghan people stand on their own two feet,” said Petit-Homme. “This is a country that has been at war for 30 to 40 years. Being here and giving them guidance is very important.”
Petit-Homme said his previous experience working with foreign militaries in Europe helps him in his current billet.
“Basically we were strengthening relations with partner nations, and here I am four years later, trying to develop that relationship with Afghanistan,” he said. “Partnering has been around the Marine Corps for a long time but it’s kind of like we’re making history here.”
Growing up in the Bahamas, Petit-Homme said he feels he can relate better to the ANA soldiers he works with.
“Because I grew up in a different country, I am better able to understand the shortfalls of a different culture,” said Petit-Homme. “I treat the soldiers like I would want to be treated and try to help them figure out their shortfalls. If you tell them to do something but don’t explain the purpose, they will do it now, but once we’re gone, they won’t do it again because they don’t understand it.”
Petit-Homme said he is thankful for the opportunity to work as a part of the EPT and have the chance to make a difference in someone else’s life.
“Doing this type of work is the kind of thing that keeps me in the Corps,” said Petit-Homme. “The experience has been outstanding and I’m grateful to have this job. It’s not just me teaching [the ANA] but learning from them as well.”