MCAGCC, Twentynine Palms, Calif. -- After much deliberation, the Tactical Training and Exercise Control Group selected its Marine of the year.
Corporal Brian J. Dingess, Coyote 28A, contact driver, Mobile Communications Platoon, took the annual honor for his accomplishments and achievements between November 2001 and November 2002. Dingess was promoted to corporal in September, shortly before winning Marine of the Year.
"He's done an outstanding job. He is currently a contact driver, meaning he's the first on the scene when tactical vehicles or communications break down," said Capt. Daniel Loftin, platoon commander. Dingess' mechanical inclination and ability to cross-train as a driver and communicator were important factors in accomplishing his section's mission through the course of the year.
"During most of the time he was considered for Marine of the Year, he was the maneuver rep's (operations officer's) driver. This means he was not only responsible for his vehicle, but also for preparing seven other maneuver vehicles for daily use during CAX.
"Also during that time, the sergeant who filled the billet of "communication equipment cage NCO" changed duty stations. Dingess filled that billet for five months and was accountable for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of communications gear," said Loftin.
Dingess was also awarded a Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal for outstanding performance of these duties through 10 combined arms exercises.
According to Loftin, not too many people were surprised or disappointed to find out he won. The biggest reason Dingess was selected over several other highly qualified Marines was because of his high level of responsibility, proficiency and initiative.
The Marine of the Year was born in Painesville, Ohio, and moved to West Virginia shortly afterwards, where he spent the remainder of his childhood.
Although Dingess played left tackle on his high school football team, he was generally out of shape and extremely overweight.
"I was unhealthy and had extremely low self confidence," confided Dingess. "I wanted to join the Marine Corps for financial security, and to change myself physically and mentally.
"A friend of mine was joining the Corps and had his recruiter contact mine, and things went from there."
Dingess struggled to ship to recruit training because of being overweight and minor health issues, but he refused to quit.
"I had to lose 25 pounds before I could leave. It was hard but my recruiter busted my chops every night on the track ... it was like a boot camp before boot camp," he said.
He then went from "living in the sticks and eating beans and cornbread every night to boot camp."
According to Dingess, boot camp was of course a culture shock, but a harsh country-boy accent and being a diet recruit automatically made things even more difficult. He adapted and overcame.
"Graduation was awesome, but seeing my family on family day was one of the better days of my life. They didn't even recognize me because of my size," he said.
Graduating boot camp was Dingess' first reward for his hard work but would not be the last.
He earned a meritorious mast at Marine Combat Training for holding a squad leader billet. He was also squad leader for the duration of his training at the Marine Corps Communications and Electronics School, getting valuable leadership skills such as helping peers and superiors and subordinates with anything he could.
Dingess was active as a Marine while home on leave as well, which resulted in his meritorious promotion to lance corporal for recruiting three Marines.
Another highlight of his life and important factor in his success is his wife. Dingess married his high school sweetheart nearly a year ago.
"She supports me in everything I do," he said. "She's been a driving force this whole time, as well as the rest of my family back home. I would never have achieved Marine of the Year if they hadn't raised me the way they did.
"I was also able to do it because I've worked under some great people during my two years at TTECG."
"Everything I have to say about Dingess is good," said Cpl. Mike Garrity, contact driver and Dingess' friend. "He does everything with good intentions, is always on time, and is very mechanically inclined, which helps us out a lot. He's always focused on the next step and on getting things done."