OCALA, FLA. --
OCALA, Fla. -- When the public sees Marine recruiters, they sometimes forget that recruiters are warriors. They see the smile, the blue trousers with red piping, the crisply-pressed brown khaki shirt, and the colorful ribbons, but they may not know the meaning of the ribbons. They may not realize that the ribbons represent acts of valor and battles fought in foreign lands.
Staff Sgt. Kathy Prieto, a recruiter at Recruiting Substation Ocala, gave the public a glimpse of her combat persona when she apprehended three gunmen in Ocala, Nov. 16, 2019.
While on her way to a training event to prepare future Marines for basic training, Prieto noticed three suspicious individuals attempting to conceal shotguns while crossing onto Hemlock Pass, a highway in Ocala. When Prieto recognized the suspicious activity and called out to question them, they ran. Prieto immediately dropped off her future Marines at a safe location and pursued the suspects on foot for two miles, continuously updating the police by cell phone.
“I had the safety of others in mind,” said Prieto. “There were others in my vehicle that I needed to keep safe. I also wanted to keep the peace within the community and ensure that the neighborhood wasn’t in any danger.”
With the help of Prieto, a police canine unit caught the suspects and took them into custody.
“She did what 99.9% of other human beings, man or women would never do,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Lauer, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Ocala. “If it were not for her decisive action, these criminals would have gotten away.”
Lauer believes that Marines set themselves apart by taking initiative and upholding high standards.
“Staff Sgt. Prieto is a very strong, intelligent, and motivated Marine,” said Lauer. “She acts selflessly and is willing to do the right thing every time, with no regard (for) her own personal safety.”
When the police captured the perpetrators, they recovered shotguns, pistols, ammunition, and other stolen items amounting to more than $2,000.