Iwakuni Marine Captain guides service members facing adversity toward personal and professional recovery

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaac Orozco
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaac Orozco

Iwakuni Marine Captain guides service members facing adversity toward personal and professional recovery

by Lance Cpl. Isaac Orozco
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – “If you saw yourself from 5 years ago standing in front of you, what would they say? Would they be proud or disappointed?” This question is one that U.S. Marine Corps Captain Melvin D. Jacobs never forgot. He often asked himself this when he was facing his own adversity earlier in his career, feeling isolated from his peers, and even to an extent, himself. The question was a constant reminder for him to stay on the right track and be the leader he was meant to be. Now, instead of reflecting on the question, Jacobs is the one who asks it to service members who need the same help and resources he once needed as he faced his own hardships.

Jacobs has been stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan since 2018. He Originally served as the S-6 Officer in Charge for Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, and now serves as the S-6 Officer in Charge for MCAS Iwakuni.

Jacobs is also the creator of the Adversity Recovery and Mentorship (ARM) program. The ARM program is designed to provide service members additional resources to cope with and recover from pending or adjudicated punishments and adversity. Jacobs dedicates much of his time to organizing the program each month to ensure service members have as many opportunities as possible to enroll.

“Service members who find themselves in legal jeopardy, many times, are looked down upon and automatically labeled many different derogatory terms,” Jacobs says. “It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in, once you’ve made that mistake you will be looked at differently, and it shouldn’t be that way. I believe this is why this program is so important; it introduces services members to the individuals who have gone through this before and can provide proven guidance on how to recover.”

The program itself is a monthly occurrence and offers those who participate valuable experiences such as classes on topics like resiliency and self-advocacy, contacts for upcoming volunteer opportunities, and advice from a wide range of guest speakers like command financial specialists or the installation volunteer coordinators.

In order to bond with those in the program more and show them recovery is very much possible, Jacobs is transparent in sharing his life-altering experiences earlier in his military career.

“When I was a 19-year-old lance corporal, I got into a fight and found myself in a Japanese jail in Okinawa and later a juvenile detention center,” he says. “While I was in jail, I really thought about what got me into that point of my life.”

Additionally, from other mistakes that were made, Captain Jacobs found himself the subject of a command investigation resulting in receiving a Summary Court-Martial, being reduced from to the rank of Private, loss of pay, and 30 days in the brig.

Jacobs said that the experience was extremely dispiriting, and that it had serious ramifications for him going forward. The event was a wake-up call for him to fully realize who he was deep down: a leader.

“Going through my adversity impacted me the most,” he says. “It made me realize what was important and that if I wanted to be successful, I needed to make some big changes in my life. The things I was doing during that time were very much out of my character.”

After receiving the Summary Court-Martial Jacobs decided he was not going to let his past define who he was and that he would restore trust with his fellow Marines. He immediately began looking for ways to prove his merit, even if those chances came by scarcely.

Jacobs doesn’t just credit himself for his remarkable path of recovery, he also had the help of his superiors who took note of his good conduct and decided to take an extra step to give him a second shot.

“It wasn’t just myself or just one singular person,” he said. “It was a lot of people who saw the work that I put in and decided to give me a second chance. It was about being a good person, making the right decisions, and proving my worth. I wasn’t going to put their name or opportunity to waste.”

The road to recovery is not easy, but Jacobs says it is a lot easier than one would think. In fact, he says the fundamentals are already in many Marines’ and Sailors’ mindset.

“I really believe it comes down to just the basics,” Jacobs said. “It’s why we learned these ideas in basic training like honor, courage or commitment, or the 14 leadership traits. If I have a follower or leader that does all those things, what more can I ask for?”

This philosophy is a prime influence in his teachings, where he reiterates that it is not uncommon for some to struggle with the fundamentals. Once the groundwork is set in one’s character however, the path to rebuild one’s career is much easier.

Those who participate in the program, like Lance Cpl. Jayden Watson, a Marine assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, say that the program has been invaluable and a great asset to the station itself.

“The ARM program he made has helped out so much,” Watson said. “He has been through some of the same things we’ve been going through, and he provides certain resources that I personally feel we should have. He’s making a huge difference in our units and our Iwakuni community”.

Watson also commented on Jacob's character and how effortless it is to speak with him about any problem or situation he’s dealing with.

“If you could imagine an officer, or a leader in general that literally at all costs wants to make sure a Marine or Sailor is ok, he would be the perfect example” Watson said. “For me after my non-judicial punishment, it was downhill for a while because everything you’ve worked for is taken away along with your future goals, but captain Jacobs was there. It doesn’t matter if you’re a leader, a follower, what unit you belong to, what rank you wear, he would just ask ‘what’s going on? Let me know what’s happening.’ and that right there was enough to make me feel comfortable to let him know how I was feeling.”

Jacobs continues to dedicate time and energy into other service members' careers to ensure each has a fighting chance regardless of their past mistakes. Through his dedication to his craft and unwavering courage in face of adversity, Jacobs will continue to host the ARM program as an invaluable asset to those service members on the station.

Photo Caption:
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Melvin Jacobs, the creator and director of the Adversity Recovery and Mentorship (ARM) program, poses in front of the air station’s headquarters building at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, August 2, 2022. Jacobs uses his past hardships and adversity to foster an environment within the ARM program where service members undergoing similar experiences can overcome their own adversity, and take steps toward recovery by introducing them to resources such command financial specialists, legal assistants, and installation volunteer coordinators.

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