Quote of the Day: “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision.”
- Gen Douglas MacArthur
One of those days.
I will remember for a long time.
Today, I got to watch a good friend go from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel. Not all in one shot, of course, but when I first met Brent way back in 1998, he was a Captain, the SupO for First Tank Battalion and I was the newly minted 2nd Lieutenant Adjutant.
To be present during his latest promotion to LtCol was not only a very proud moment in my friendship with this great American but also made me think of all the adventures we had shared over the years. The fact that my “friends” are now pinning on the likes of LtCol oak leaves just stuns me into silence. You have to understand that even after 18 years in this shootin’ club, I still see these dizzying heights of ranks as unreachable planes so when my buddies get there, it just seems at least improbable that this lowly Lance Corporal-in-my-head would be bumping elbows.
It couldn’t have happened to a better Marine. Brent is simply the best logistician I’ve ever met. Professionally, he has no match. He’s had command in combat (in Iraq for over 13 months leading the H&S Company for a portion of it) and has gone through all the wickets to ascend to his current position.
Starting as a cook, yes, that’s right, a COOK, he has accomplished diverse missions outside his MOS such as recruiting duty, formal schools, and the aforementioned combat command.
On a personal friendship level, Brent was one of the Four Horsemen which was a poker foursome that evolved into a marathoning foursome. I will never forget how he and two others brought me under their wings during my first assignment as an officer. Too old to hang with the other Lieutenants but to junior in rank to fit into my age-equivalents, they pulled me into a weekly poker event and treated me like an equal.
He has a wife and two daughters and it wasn’t long before our families got close for weekly BBQs and frequent get-togethers.
So today was special for many reasons. Personally because it was Brent and professionally because it proved to me that the Marine Corps still gets the promotion thing right, promoting the right people.
I have to cover this though because it’s too good to pass up.
Let me begin by pointing out that:
– I was an Adjutant and hosed up plenty of official award and promotion readings
– I have the utmost respect for senior Staff NCOs and especially Master Gunnery Sergeants.
With that said, Master Guns really hosed this one up. But he’s not 100% to blame.
Like these things go in small commands, the promotion ceremony was very last minute. I showed up at 0745 for the 0800 ceremony and Brent was still getting dressed. He waited too long to coordinate the Colonel he wanted to promote him and had to make a 4th quarter call to the CO of MCSSS; a man he had never met.
At just about 0800, the Mater Guns came in and asked Brent for the promotion warrant and Brent told him that the real one wouldn’t be mailed to him for weeks. Since Brent had just got to this billet, few of his belongings were on the walls and he had boxes of various “I-Love-Me” items in boxes. He reached in one and gave the Master Guns his promotion to Major and told him to take it out of the frame and use it.
Then the Colonel showed up and five minutes after the ceremony was scheduled, they were still chatting and the Master Guns was tearing out Brent’s promotion warrant of the frame.
During the ceremony, I looked over and remembered that the official document of a promotion warrant is written in very decorative script that’s hard to read on the fly. Also, there are several references that are typed in according to the current rank, date, etc. so I realized he would have to change those as he read it.
Again, I’ve been in this position and I respect the Master Guns but I have to repeat: he hosed it up bad.
To get the picture, you have to know that the first time I met this man was yesterday when he walked into Brent’s office. The man is enormous. Tall, full of rippling muscle, and a severe look on his face only matched by his serious demeanor. The kind of guy you could never imagine smiling… at all.
So this hulk of a man was doing the best he could and pretty well I might add until he got to the rank. I knew this was going to be the first test because the warrant said “Major” and just like those brainteasers where you have to read the names of colors but the letters are in a completely different color, what you see if often what you read even if you KNOW to change it.
Here was the dialogue:
“…I do appoint this officer a….”
The Master Guns hesitated…
“…I do appoint this officer a………….. Lieutenant MAJOR in the united States Marine Corps…”
Did I hear that right? Shit. No one reacted as I scanned the crowd until Brent, who was at attention right in front of the Colonel, turned his corners of his mouth just ever-so-slightly upwards.
The next opportunity for disaster came when he had to read the date. It went something like this:
“Done at the city of Washington, this ….. um …. 26th of August…. .200….. 2005.”
OK, not as bad but you knew he was scrambling. And it wasn’t over. He still had to get through the number of years the Corps has been in existence and what he was reading was based on years ago when Brent became a Major. This was fast math that, considering his performance thus far, was beyond his means at the time.
“… and of the Independence of the United States of America, the …..”
Now he was royally screwed.
Oh God, Master Guns, I’m feelin’ it. Godspeed man, I’m dying with you on this one…
“…. the …. 2005!”
Hmmmm, that’s a novel approach.
At this point I was hoping it was over but then I remembered that the Secretary of the Navy and the Commandant signs it and I didn’t know how he was going to announce that since they too were different than what he was looking at.
I want to crawl under a rock…. The stress is killin’ me….
And that was it.
They all laughed about it graciously when he apologized afterwards and I was relieved to see that the elusive smile I never thought I’d witness actually did spread across the Master Guns’ face to show that he took it in stride. As I was passing his desk, I caught a glimpse of just a very brief personal moment of the Master Guns returning to his desk. It was just a momentary opportunity when he had to think he was alone, and would be in about a second as I passed. I knew that whatever he was feeling was going to flash on his face because it was the first moment he was “alone.”
He was still grinning, now to himself.
Good, I thought, he’s not beating himself up.
It was strange to see Brent with silver oak leaves on and the first thing he did was to hand me the outgoing gold oak leaves he had just been wearing and then chastised me to get my PME done so I could pin them on.
Free Advice for Today: “Lead a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll get to enjoy it a second time.”
- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.