MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA -- While some people join the military because they have no plans for their future, one station Marine strategically chose the Corps as a springboard to a successful career.
Sergeant Christopher Taylor, a motion photographer at the Combat Visual Information Center, joined the Marine Corps because he knew where he wanted to go in life and knew the Corps would help put him on that path.
"I knew I wouldn't be going to college for a while, so I wanted to do something to improve myself personally and professionally," said the 23-year-old Orlando, Fla., native. "I was just too burnt out from school and knew that I wasn't ready for the college atmosphere."
Wanting to pursue film-making, a passion since high school, Taylor saw an opportunity to do so in the military.
"The Marine Corps has a camaraderie that interested me," Taylor said of his reason for choosing the Marines over the other military branches. "I decided that if I was going into the military, I was going to go full-fledged."
After boot camp, he was sent to the Defense Information School at Fort George G. Meade, Md. in January 2000, where he was taught the basics of film making, and then to Yuma in July.
"I had no idea that this place even existed, and I can't honestly say that I was very optimistic about coming here," Taylor said of the air station. "I never intended on ever living in Arizona and thought that no good could come from living in the desert."
Once here, however, the young Marine found opportunities to gain extra experience in his chosen career field. Soon after coming to Yuma, Taylor was hired on as a weekend cameraman for a local television station.
"I was trying to earn some extra money and gain some media experience because I had never had any," he explained. "I had that job for about six months."
In addition to experience gained from side jobs, Taylor got plenty of practice while filming military-related events, including Weapons and Tactics Instructor courses and the annual station air show. He was even afforded the opportunity to deploy to a foreign country to perform his job.
Attached to Marine Wing Support Squadron-371, Taylor went to Djibouti, Africa, for a month to document the squadron while the Marines set up a water pump to supply a small village.
"Doing things like that makes me realize that the Marine Corps goes out of its way to supplement the lives of other people who aren't as advantaged as we are," he explained. "It's pretty humbling to be part of an organization that does that."
In addition to gaining experience and knowledge to better his chances for success in the future, Taylor makes sure the Marines in his office are just as well-prepared.
"He's an outstanding Marine, and he makes sure all the other Marines are trained to their full capabilities," said Gunnery Sgt. Luis Palacios, CVIC's staff noncommissioned officer in charge. "His Marines respond to him very well, and he makes sure they will be able to take the reigns when he leaves."
In his spare time, Taylor writes scripts and tries his hand at making his own films.
"The fact that he and I were really serious about the project really made it extremely enjoyable and intense," Sgt. Matthew Henry, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-13, said of "Negative Development," a film Taylor started that cast Henry in a starring role.
Though the film was never completed because Henry and others involved were deployed, it was still a good experience.
"I still enjoyed every moment of making the movie and I really hope we can do some more of it before he leaves (Yuma)," Henry said.
After leaving the Marine Corps in September, Taylor hopes to enroll in a college somewhere in upstate New York or in Toronto.
Currently, Taylor is working on a script that is loosely based on the book "29 Palms" by Deanne Stillman.
The book is a true story about a Marine who rapes and kills two women.
"I'm not writing the script to crush the integrity of the Marine Corps in any way, but I know the book and the Marine Corps so well, I know I would be good at writing a movie about it," Taylor explained. "The book is set in a desert environment and it deals with the effects the desert has on the people who live there. I can identify with that."
Another passion of Taylor's is music, which he is trying to incorporate into his love of movies.
"I play guitar and I like to write music and lyrics," he said. "I want to possibly use my musical abilities for future film soundtracks."
Though he has his sights set on a very promising future, Taylor knows that the road there may be full of unexpected turns.
"The path is never from point A to B in film. There's a lot of networking and bouncing around before you get there," he explained.
Over the next 10 years, Taylor expects he will be doing production work for a mid-level studio somewhere before making it big.
"He's going to be successful," Palacios insisted. "He's just that type of person. He's very dependable and he gets things done. That's important in order to be successful."
"Taylor is very knowledgable in the world of production," Henry agreed. "Knowing him and his infatuation with his work, he should, without a doubt, be able to go as far as he wants with this."
For Taylor, the decision to join the Marine Corps has made a lasting impact on his life and given him the drive and fuel to complete his goals.
"Personally, the Marine Corps made me take advantage of what I have and not take for granted the freedom I have to do what I want as a person," he explained. "Professionally, the Corps has definitely been a stepping stone for my future. It forced me to take a leadership role."