BEAUFORT, SC, UNITED STATES, Oct. 21, 2016 —
The sun blazed. Sand blasted everything in its path. A Marine sat in a turret, squinting and looking around for eminent danger. The sound of tactical vehicles made a thunderous sound traversing the dirt terrain. Just as his convoy crested a hill an explosion rocked the earth — and then darkness.
In 2009, Sgt. Michael Kane, woke up being tended to in a medical bay at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. He was later told his convoy had been struck by a 30 pound improvised explosive device. With only one month remaining until the end of the deployment, Kane’s fears had finally come true.
“We all knew it wasn’t a matter of if, but when we would hit an IED,” said Kane. “All I knew at the time is that the vehicle was still in driving condition. All three of us received grade two concussions. I received the brunt of the blast since I was at the turret.”
For the last eight months Kane and his fellow Marines had been providing convoy security. They were returning from a supply delivery to Forward Operating Base Nowzad when they encountered the IED. They weren’t the only vehicles in the convoy to be hit. Seventeen hours earlier four vehicles in the convoy encountered IED’s also. After Kane’s own vehicle exploded he lost consciousness. His convoy continued on to Camp Leatherneck where he and his Marines were taken to the medical bay.
“Thirty hours later I wake up and think, ‘Why am I here?’,” said Kane. “I was told I was still up and talking but I just don’t remember it.”
For Kane, the events that transpired that day are blurred, but living with the effects of the attack is a clear, everyday reality. Several years later and still dealing with the pain, he finds himself in a familiar environment at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, setting the example for others. Today he works as the pit non-commissioned officer with the fuels section, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron.
“When I work with my Marines I make sure they have the knowledge they need to do their job, balance life and responsibilities, and that they have a mentor,” said Kane.
“I talk with them a lot about leadership traits. When they have those traits they can be a leader, regardless of their rank.”
Everyday Kane leads his Marines by example. Kane is the crew leader for eight Marines at the fuels section. He is there every step of the way in their development. Whether it is physical training or daily work tasks, Kane is present and ready to assist, if necessary.
“We might only need three Marines to complete a fueling operation,” said Pfc. Daniel Henkel, a bulk fuels specialist with H&HS. “But you will never see him kick back and make us do all the work. He is right there, supervising and making sure the job gets done.”
Kane will be separating from the Marine Corps in the upcoming year, but that does not slow him down. If anything, it motivates him to work harder and to train his Marines to be leaders. He maintains the same level of discipline regardless of his environment; whether deployed or here, beginning of the work day or the end.
“The Marine Corps is all I know,” said Kane. “Sometimes it’s hard to come to work and know this will all be over soon, but I just take it step by step. Even though I am planning for what comes next I still push my Marines to better themselves and think critically.”
According to Kane, he is planning on finding employment that will go hand in hand with the landscaping business he plans to own and run. As he prepares to transition out of the Marine Corps, he considers his Marines first and makes plans to provide for his family. Due to the injuries he sustained while on deployment in 2009, he is being considered for the Purple Heart Award. “He’s been through so much and yet he never gives up,” said Henkel. “I want to work like him; serve like him. He puts his Marines before himself. That’s the kind of leader I want to be. I want to leave behind the same kind of legacy.”