Two years ago, Knox County native Clarence Enlow was a Marine Corps staff sergeant with a decade of military service under his belt. The combat instructor had faced deployment to Iraq—kicking in doors, providing security and traveling in convoys—and planned to remain a Marine until he retired after 23 years of service. Then a training accident changed everything, although Enlow didn’t know it at the time.
“I was injured in 2013, went through all the medical processes and eventually we figured out the injury was going to be something that would stay with me,” he explained. “I was sent to the Wounded Warrior Battalion in January 2015.”
Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, headquartered at Camp Lejeune, N.C., is one of two battalions of the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment. The battalion at Camp Lejeune provides full-time support to wounded, ill and injured Marines and their families until they return to duty, are medically retired or successfully transition to civilian life. In Enlow’s case, he was headed for medical retirement.
“There was a little bit of depression while I was trying to figure out what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “In the Marine Corps, once you stay in past your initial four years you are committed. Once I got past that dark spot, Crane was my target. It was my first thought and my focus once I knew I was getting out and got to the point where I was planning for the future. If I couldn’t be a warfighter anymore, I wanted to support the warfighter and that’s what Crane does.”
The Wounded Warrior Transition Team at Camp Lejeune, which offers services such as resume writing, computer and writing courses and internships on top of medical rehabilitation, helped prepare Enlow to reenter the workforce. A Wounded Warrior Battalion employee also called Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) Human Resources Division Staffing and Classification Branch Manager Lucinda Shirley to let her know that Enlow would be retiring and available for employment soon. Shirley noted that his background in ammunition, training and weapons made him a good fit for the warfare center and shared his resume with management, which led to an offer of employment using the 30% or More Disabled Veterans hiring authority.
Last month, Enlow began work in the Special Warfare & Expeditionary Systems Department’s Weapon Systems Training Branch, writing technical manuals for building weapons. “This is awesome,” he said about his job, “especially writing the manual for the breacher shotgun because I’ve actually used a version of it while deployed. I’ve been a user and now I’m a part of the design process and I can be helpful to the engineer I’m working with because I’ve seen both sides of it—you don’t just fix your weapon in the armory, sometimes you’re doing it while you’re bouncing around in the back of a Humvee and that needs to be taken into account.”
Shirley praised Enlow’s contributions to the warfare center and the benefits of having a former user of its products to share real world scenarios with its engineers. Special Warfare & Expeditionary Systems Department Weapon Systems Training Branch Manager John Brummett agreed that the biggest benefits to hiring Enlow are his experience and willingness to do whatever is asked of him. “He’s one of the A+ players,” Brummett said. “Clarence showed up the first day and he hit the ground running. He’s volunteered to do everything from scrubbing the deck to tearing a weapon down, and that doesn’t occur too often.”
Enlow’s favorite part of working at NSWC Crane is that it gives him the same close-knit ties with coworkers that he enjoyed in small units while he was a Marine. Brummett noted that one reason he fit in so quickly in the organization is that 90 percent of the branch’s employees are veterans or current military members. The warfare center plans to continue hiring wounded warriors whenever possible.