MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP BLAZ, Gu. -- DEDEDO, Guam – Joining the Marine Corps was a longtime dream for Nicohlas Benjamin D. Ooka. He first became interested in military service during his sophomore year of high school, enamored with the idea of becoming the first commissioned officer in his family.
Originally from Yona, Nicohlas Benjamin comes from a family of veterans. Three of his uncles served in the Army until retirement, and a fourth served in the Navy. A fifth served in the Marine Corps before transitioning to the Army and retiring as a Sergeant First Class.
After several attempts to convince him to join a different branch, his parents consented to his enlistment under the condition he didn’t sign up for infantry. He enlisted during his senior year of high school in 2017 as a 0631, Network Administrator at the age of seventeen.
“It was the idea of the Marine Corps being the best that caught my eye,” he stated. “Over time, I also became interested in things like the job security and opportunities in and outside of the Marine Corps.”
Joining the Marine Corps is an excellent way to gain real-world experience in over 35 career fields. “In a word, opportunities. It has opened up a lot of doors for my future. If I was to get out today, I would have a lot of experience and certifications I can use to get a good job in the civilian sector,” said Ooka.
Ooka completed boot camp and Marine Combat Training in San Diego, then attended Communications School in 29 Palms, California. After graduation, he was assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 at 29 Palms.
Sgt. Ooka and his wife, Mia, were excited when they heard they would be returning to Guam. Mia, originally from Barrigada, just gave birth to their second child, Amista Tasi, on April 12, 2021.
“We were surprised. It was a little hard for us when our son, Tano Matua, was born in February of 2019 because we were so far away from home. It’s really nice to have the support of family and for them to finally get to meet each other in person.”
After four years of service, Ooka is glad to be home. “How can I explain it? The people, that’s what I missed the most,” he said. “Now that I’m back home, I feel the need to give back. Not just to my family, but also the community. Many people helped mold me into who I am now, from the school to nonprofit organizations with whom I worked closely with. It doesn't matter how I give back, as long as I can help people, I’m happy.”
Marines contribute to the island through a variety of community outreach programs held throughout the year. Some common examples include island beautification projects, JROTC support, Liberation Day, and the annual Toys for Toys campaign which collected over 9,800 toys and contributed over $74,000 to the local community last year.
“Being stationed at MCB Camp Blaz is helping me give back. I've had volunteer opportunities to help some of the villages in a multitude of ways. In April when we painted at the Barrigada Mayor's Office, it felt good to be out there and interact with the community. Getting to speak with the staff at the mayor's office, Public Works Division, and people at the church added to the experience. I hope I get more opportunities to help the community in the future.”
Camp Blaz is the first Marine Corps base built since 1952. Nicohlas Benjamin and the Marines who serve alongside him are just a few of the many people supporting this historic moment behind the scenes. MCB Blaz is essential to strengthening our ability to deter and defend, as well as strengthening the capabilities of our allies and partners in ensuring regional security.
Sgt. Ooka expressed his opinion regarding the Marine expansion on Guam. “Honestly it feels pretty awesome to be able to see the initial phases of the base being built. This is the first time something like this has been done in a while. There’s the whole national security aspect of it. Economy-wise, there will be more cash flowing through the island itself, so that’s better. And also, there will be a higher chance I can get stationed out here again in the future.”
Ooka was recently promoted to the rank of Sergeant at Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz on May 4, 2021. As a noncommissioned officer, he is now eligible to apply for Warrant Officer Basic Course (WOBC). Warrant Officers are experts in their respective career fields and serve as combat leaders and mentors to other service members. Applicants are required to have several years of experience, meet qualitative prerequisites, and obtain a letter of endorsement from their chain of command.
Nicohlas Benjamin is thinking about attending WOBC so he can provide a brighter future for his family. “Push past your limits,” he exclaimed. “When you get stressed out, just push through it. It’s just a small hurdle. I strive for more and work hard so I can better care for my family. Learn to lean on the people and things that are important in your life. They can be an incredible support system.”
Obtaining the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 2 will fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a commissioned officer in the United States Marine Corps. He gives credit to the Marine Corps and his family for making him more determined and giving him the drive to succeed.