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Warrior of the Year follows strong examples, sets one of his own

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Paul Cox Defense Information School


The Defense Information School’s 2015 Warrior of the Year arrived in the United States from Poland when he was 11. He always admired his parents and grandparents for their shared sense of duty and has tried to live up to their examples.

“You can never forget where you came from, the values you’ve been taught, traditions, and how you are brought up as a person,” Marine Sgt. Marcin J. Platek said.

Case in point: When the Warrior of the Year board convened Oct. 23 at the Fort Meade school to judge the school’s four Warriors of the Quarter, Platek, 28, stood out. Along with the other candidates, Platek was evaluated on his knowledge of current events, military history, and service and DINFOS policies.

He didn’t answer every question correctly, said 1st Sgt. Tammy M. James, the DINFOS first sergeant, but in a group of outstanding candidates, what set him apart was his confidence.

That – and his integrity.

The week after the board had made its selection, Platek found James and corrected the wrong answers he had given.

Very few people in her experience had done that before, James said. It proved her belief that he is someone who keeps his word.

 “It’s an honor to be considered Warrior of the Year,” Platek said. “That is something I try to live up to every day.”

Platek’s family moved to the United States from Poland in December 1998, seven years after the Soviet Union dissolved. His mother had been a teacher and his father a dental technician in Poland.

“My parents had established careers,” Platek said. “We were pretty well-off, but they figured they’d leave all that behind and get a better life for us.”

In Chicago, Platek and his parents lived with his father’s aunt in a large Polish community. His father and mother worked a variety of jobs until his father found work as an electrician and his mother opened a massage business.

Platek, who would have been in the sixth grade in Poland, resumed school as a fifth-grader because of the language barrier. After graduating from high school, he worked for several businesses, including UPS, where he rose to a supervisor position.

At UPS, Platek saw people doing the same jobs for years until they retired.

“I wasn’t trying to do that,” he said. “I wanted to see more of the world.”

Platek joined the Marines Corps in September 2010 without a guaranteed occupational specialty but hoping to go into the infantry, he said. Halfway through boot camp, he learned he would be trained as a combat correspondent instead.

He said he was anxious about the job, which he knew very little about and which seemed to be the opposite of what he was striving for. Still, as he learned more about his new specialty, he realized he would belong to one of the best career fields in the Marine Corps, with the possibility of going anywhere and doing anything.

After graduating from the Basic Public Affairs Specialist Course at DINFOS and working in the fleet, he returned for the Intermediate Photojournalism Course to learn multimedia techniques. Soon, a senior NCO noticed the quality of his videos and recommended he become an instructor at DINFOS, where he arrived – for the third time – in November 2013.

He assumed his instructor duties after six months of training and now teaches in the Advanced Broadcasting Subjects section of the Broadcast Operations and Maintenance Department, which includes the Electronic Journalism Course, Advanced Electronic Journalism Course and Broadcast Management Course.

The dark-haired, athletically-built Marine spends most evenings with his wife and two children, 11 and 3, he said. He stays up late with them and gets up early for 4 a.m. workouts.

Attaining Warrior of the Year recognition was never Platek’s primary goal, said Marine Staff Sgt. Michael S. Cifuentes, a fellow instructor and Platek’s sponsor for the competition. It was just something that came naturally – and there is no one more deserving than Platek, he said.

Platek tends to go above and beyond requirements, and, if he doesn’t have something to do, will find something productive to work on, Cifuentes said. For instance, in preparation for teaching the Broadcast Management Course, he is taking it for credit.

He participates in the school’s Joint Service Color Guard and provides mentorship to junior Marines at their barracks.

Throughout his time in the Marine Corps, he has looked up to his noncommissioned officers, trying to emulate positive traits he might one day instill in his junior Marines, Platek said. It looks as if he’s on the right track.

“He never turns off that Marine key,” Cifuentes said. “He walks around, eats, breaths, sleeps and laughs as a Marine. If you tell him to do something, you don’t have to follow up with him.”