Sunday, June 19, 2011

SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent - Farewell to a Marine’s Marine - relieved as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps after 35 years of service

We all have met and spent time with people who gave us their strength in times of great duress. The inspirational leader who shored you up when you needed it most. These are the people you remember.

My time in Fallujah, Iraq from 2004-2005 was some of the toughest months of my life. The place was hell and it was not something I have not wanted to relive or really remember. While the Seabees didn't experience that place like the USMC did, if you were there, you paid a "price". There is no need to justify how good or bad anyone had it - The place "sucked", for lack of a better term, and it was horrible for all. Too many men paid the ultimate price and many others will carry the scars from that place, physically and mentally, for the rest of their lives.

During my time there, I developed a close bond with the Marines we served with in IMEF. Our Seabee regiment was attached to the USMC Command, IMEF. It was the way things were organized and like most changes, it took some getting used to.

One of the jobs I had was working closely with my USMC counterparts as we had to assist each other with supply and convoys. The Marines handled the brunt of the work with Seabees in support. I became pretty well known by most of the Marine command as they would request supplies that we had in our TOA that the Marines were short on. This meant on a regular basis, I had to supply the Marines when they fell short and it allowed me to contribute to the difficult work they did in that God forsaken place. My job was not as harrowing as tearing the city apart, but each of us was assisting the efforts.

Part of this was working with the command at IMEF which was new to me then. I had gone on a few OPS with CENTCOM and other unified commands but this was different. As time passed, word got out to the senior enlisted structure at IMEF that the Seabees were assisting in many ways that helped the USMC including the Logistics/Supply efforts made by our group. The SgtMaj of IMEF in Fallujah at that time was SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent. I only spoke to him when he had asked for my assistance a few times approaching me and having my efforts extolled to him by one of my USMC counterparts . I worked with the Gunny Sgts but they had given the Seabees high marks for all our efforts and word had gotten to SgtMaj Kent.

SgtMaj Kent was a great leader and the kind of person that naturally exuded leadership. His manner was to give his full atention to the person he was speaking with and to make sure that each one knew he had his full attention. I had a few opportunties to speak with him and got to know him professionally.

The day came when like most of us, I had to leave Fallujah. It seemed like the place you would never leave but eventually, you were given heads up to pack your stuff and head out. When I got the word, I had to stop by and pay my respects to SgtMaj Kent as he and I had developed a good working relationship during my time there.

I went to see him and in his office I told him that I was going to be leaving as I had orders to pushout back home. SgtMaj Kent thanked me for all my efforts in supporting the mission and said, " Gee, I was just getting used to having you around..." He felt the Seabees had proven how well they could do as many of the Marines were intially unsure if having Seabees there with them in the command would work out.

I shook his hand and stated that it had been an honor and privilege to serve with him. He looked me in the eye and said, " SK1, you can go out with my men anytime...It's been great to have you here." While many would value a COM or a NAM for their efforts while deployed, I had gotten what I valued more than anything I could have asked for. I had the Sgt Maj's respect. He honored me by giving me his confidence and expressing he was thankful for the time we had together. I left his office prouder than if the Commander of IMEF had pinned an award on me as I had the respect of the Senior Enlisted Leader of IMEF and that is something I had worked hard to earn. He was the top War Fighter and the one all enlisted (USMC & Seabees) looked to as our Leader.

This rememberance came about due to reading a post at the USNI blog about SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent being relieved as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. I had not kept track of SgtMaj Kent's career but it is obvious why we was chosen for the post he held. He is a Marine's Marine, and the right man to take on leading Marines in their mission to defend our country and help others in need.

Bravo Zulu to Sergeant Major Kent. He has my respect and thanks for all the support he gave me during a very difficult time in my life. I remember him and I hope that some day, our paths cross again so I can thank him again for all that he did to help me and many, many others.

From the post at the USNI Blog:

On 8 June 2011, the United States Marine Corps conducted a post and relief of the senior enlisted Marine in the Corps at Marine Barracks 8th and I, Washington DC. SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent was relieved as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps by SgtMaj Michael Barrett, who becomes the 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. The relief brings to an end SgtMaj Kent’s 35 year career in the Corps. He is a legend in our Corps, an inspiration and example to all Marines, but particularly to the SNCO, NCO, and junior enlisted Marines, to whom his dedication was boundless.

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