Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Dakota Certain, left, a Marine with the command recruiting program at Recruiting Substation (RSS) Murfreesboro, Recruiting Station Nashville, speaks to Staff Sgt. Nathan Haaland, right, a recruiter with RSS Murfreesboro, at Coffee County Central High School, Manchester, Tennessee, Oct. 19, 2023. This program offers new Marines the opportunity to return to their recruiting station in support of recruiting efforts. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bernadette Pacheco)

Photo by Cpl. Bernadette Pacheco

Not 'I, We' | Dakota Certain

27 Nov 2023 | PEO Land Systems

As a high school senior, thinking of his post-high school plans and career options, Pvt. Dakota Certain couldn’t make up his mind. He was overwhelmed with all the possibilities, and wanted to ensure he made the “right” choice for his future. The indecision gnawed at him, and he didn’t know how he’d ever make a choice with graduation looming on the horizon.

In the late fall of his senior year, Certain’s friend, Jeremy Jones, posed a question to him during a workout together. While attempting to catch their breath between sets, Jones turned to him and asked if he wanted to try a “new kind” of workout. This workout took place at Marine Corps Recruiting Substation (RSS) Murfreesboro, Recruiting Station Nashville, where Jones was a poolee awaiting his time to ship out to recruit training. He regularly took part in physical training, or PT, with his fellow poolees and the Marine recruiters to become more physically and mentally fit. Certain accepted his friend's invitation and decided to drop by the RSS to check things out. Upon meeting everyone and joining in their PT session, his interest was sparked. He was drawn to the foundation of fitness and discipline in the Marine Corps, and the comradery it offered him.

His recruiter, Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Briggs, immediately took notice of the qualities that would make Certain a strong Marine.
“He was motivated right out the gate,” Briggs stated. “He was very competitive and pushed those around him to be better.”
Having decided on the Marine Corps as his path, Certain’s next step was to choose a job within the branch. Being drawn to technology and problem solving, and inspired by Jones who was slated to become a combat engineer, Certain also signed his contract as a combat engineer.

Two months after his graduation from Warren County High School, Certain shipped out to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, in July 2023. Shortly after arriving, something unexpected happened. Certain was removed from his platoon and placed with a new one due to overflowing numbers. He left behind familiar faces, some of whom he had already befriended, to a new platoon where he knew no one. Certain decided to keep his head down and put his all into training. His focus and dedication were soon noticed by the drill instructors, and they pulled him out of his bubble and thrust him into a role with a spotlight on him – a squad leader.

In recruit training, there are four squad leaders selected out of each platoon. As a squad leader, one ensures that their fellow recruits follow standards, and do so by setting the example. Certain shared a high degree of confidentiality with the drill instructors, and served as a liaison for the rest of the recruits. The squad leaders helped identify which recruits struggled to grasp certain concepts, in order to improve the effectiveness and success of the platoon. Certain was taught the selflessness of a true leader by sacrificing his needs for the good of those he lead. He was placed last in almost every situation, such as being last to eat at the chow hall, in order to ensure the rest of the platoon was cared for.

“It made me want to be better, not just for myself, but for others as well,” Certain explained of his role. “[Being a squad leader] was challenging but definitely, definitely worth it.”

Upon receiving his eagle, globe and anchor emblem and earning the title of Marine, Certain graduated recruit training in October 2023. He returned to Tennessee as part of the command recruiting (CDR) program at RSS Murfreesboro. As part of this program, Certain had the opportunity to assist at the RSS through sharing the Marine Corps presence and prospecting potential candidates. He enjoyed the extra time spent with family and friends, and prepared for the next stage of his career – 29 days of Marine Combat Training (MCT) in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is slated to graduate MCT December 2023, after which he is scheduled to attend combat engineer training.

4th Marine Corps District