GEORGETOWN, S.C. - His journey began in middle school. There was a television show called "Inside Combat Rescue" that he watched nonstop. He dedicated his life to it. To this day, he still has every episode saved on his DVR.
South Carolina National Guard member Spc. Cody Watkins, assigned to the 125th Multi-Role Bridging Company, knew what he was going to do with his life when he was literally "just a kid." After watching so many episodes of that show, he knew he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his favorite TV characters.
At 17, he walked into his recruiter's office. The job he had watched on that television show for so many years was not available. That didn't stop him. When his recruiter told him about a job with a bridging company, he was eager to get started. As soon as he was old enough to sign his name on the dotted line, he did.
"I wanted something more for my life," Watkins said.
The summer between his junior and senior year, he went to basic training. After graduation, he went to his Military Occupational Specialty training.
"I didn't really think I had anyone who cared about me and supported me and the things I had done until I got here to this unit," he said. "Everyone believes in me here. They all believe in my capabilities and my ability to do things."
Watkins has earned that respect.
"When we were in Conway building HESCO barriers, they had confidence in my ability to run a skid steer because that's what I used to do in my civilian job as a heavy equipment operator," he said.
Sgt. Christian Miller, the 125th MRBC 1st platoon team leader, was on that Conway mission.
"Specialist Watkins was a significant asset in regard to the construction of the HESCO barriers on Highway 501 in Conway," Miller said. "He was not only willing, but eager to use his civilian skills as a skid steer operator in order to ensure we met our mission goals. Specialist Watkins is an important member of a highly motivated team of Soldiers."
According to Watkins, being able to support the Hurricane Florence relief efforts has been one of his proudest accomplishments.
"The community makes it all worth it," he said. "The amount of support we're getting from the community is incredible. They bring us tons of food, bug spray, shampoo, anything we need. They've even kept up to all of our laundry."
He imagined a life like this when he was just a kid watching a television show, and now, he has made his dream a reality.
"I couldn't imagine myself anywhere else," Watkins said. "I'm proud to be out here with all these men and women. These are my brothers and sisters out here on these boats. They're family."