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Former U.S. Marine Sergeant Isaiah Garcia tightens a camber and toe assembly to accurately align the wheels of a vehicle being serviced at the BMW of Murrieta Service Center in Murrieta, California, April 4, 2019. Garcia has been working at the center for nine months since graduating from the Military Service Technician Education Program (MSTEP) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. The MSTEP is a 16-week training workshop that provides service members who are transitioning from active duty with hands-on training, and upon completion, connects them with service centers to secure a job as an automotive technician. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez)

Photo by Pfc. Andrew Cortez

Former Camp Pendleton Marine looks back at MSTEP opportunity, one year later

10 Apr 2019 | Pfc. Andrew Cortez Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Perhaps one of the toughest decisions a Marine makes in his or her career is when to leave active or reserve duty. For those who decide to transition to civilian life, the number of choices can be overwhelming. For one Marine, however, a transition program offered to him a year ago led to a bright future doing something he never expected.

The Military Service Technician Education Program (MSTEP) is a 16-week course that paves the way for service members to become BMW service, automotive technicians. The program has been available to Camp Pendleton service members for one year so far and continues to be a success. Since its first graduation, the course has achieved a 100 percent placement rate upon completion of the course, according to Sal Sandoval, BMW MSTEP education supervisor.

Isaiah Garcia graduated with the first class and works for a dealership in Murrieta, California. Garcia served in the Marine Corps for four years before receiving an honorable discharge as a sergeant. Like many Marines, Garcia had plenty of options after the Marine Corps but was not sure what he was going to do.

“I didn’t have a plan on what I was going to be doing after the Marine Corps,” said Garcia, honor graduate of the first MSTEP class. “I knew I wanted to be a [technician], but I didn’t know how to get there.”

Garcia learned about MSTEP through the Transition Readiness Seminar, a five-day course offered to Marines of all ranks who are reaching the end of their service. He said when he learned about the class, it was crucial he got in. Garcia had to appear in front of a panel of senior BMW supervisors. The supervisors looked over his application and then put his name on a waiting list. While he was waiting, all he could think about was being a part of the first MSTEP class. When he got the acceptance call from Sandoval, he was overjoyed.

“I got a call from Sal saying I was accepted. I was so happy, [my wife and I] ended up going out that night to celebrate.”

The MSTEP course is fast-paced and challenging at times. Garcia would often stay after class to ask questions and get more information on different subjects.

"He was very passionate about what he did and took the time to learn," said Sandoval. “One of the things I noticed about Isaiah was his attention to detail. I’m sure [being a parachute rigger] plays a big part to look at the small things. Isaiah was able to take what he learned [in the Marine Corps] and bring it here. I knew he was going to be great at this.”

Garcia graduated at the top of his class and, with the knowledge learned at MSTEP, secured his current position. As a former employee of the same dealership, Sandoval was even able to recommend Garcia. Garcia has been working with BMW of Murrieta for nine months now and performs quick repairs. He does oil changes, brakes, wheel alignments, and brake bleeds. Garcia keeps in touch with Sandoval to ask questions and see how the program is doing.

According to Sandoval, managers at dealerships are requesting more service members to work at their locations.

“Service members bring a level of maturity that we don’t see on the civilian side," said Sandoval. “They are used to taking orders, and they can work independently or as a team. They are held to a higher standard, so they can get the job done. That’s the appeal of having a service member as an employee.”


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