MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- For some, performing in front of innumerable crowds of people for more than 22 years at famous locations and events throughout the country may be the pinnacle of their careers, but for one Pittsburgh native, the twilight is still below the horizon as he moves on to become the top man in his field and prove he has more to offer the Corps.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert C. Jacob III, band officer for the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Band, was promoted to his current rank Dec. 9 as the only CWO 5 in the Marine Corps band field, and will soon be moving on to Headquarters Marine Corps as the senior advisor.
“I have mixed emotions about leaving here,” said Jacob, who originally enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1982 as a forward artillery observer. “I have done everything I’ve wanted to do, conducted every piece of music I wanted to conduct, and I’ve got to perform in some great concert halls with some great musicians in my career.
“This band is the best band that I have ever had,” said Jacob of the Combat Center Marines he says he was privileged to lead. “I can’t imagine anything topping it, and any other band would be a step down from this. So with that in regard, I will certainly miss the Marines.”
Jacob began his band career teaching music to kindergarten through twelfth grade students after earning his degrees in music education and later in conducting. But after five years as an educator, he felt it was time to fulfill his lifelong goal and become a Marine.
“I’d always wanted to be a Marine,” said Jacob. “Since I was 9 years old, I had a picture of Chesty Puller hanging on my bedroom wall. But I also loved music, and I got my degree in music education and gave teaching a shot.
“I decided to join the reserves, and I loved it and wanted to make the Marine Corps my career,” continued Jacob, who started out as a percussionist with the band at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in 1983. “I have my master’s degree in conducting and didn’t want to let all of that college go to waste, so I went into the band field.”
For Jacob, music and military are a proud family tradition. His grandfather was the senior Navy musician during World War I and he has a picture of his grandfather talking with John Phillip Sousa on his wall.
“It’s going to be tough on us but we’re going to go on,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Streeter, drum major, who was a student of Jacob’s while he served as an instructor at the Armed Forces School of Music. “What’s important is where he is going. I know myself and our master sergeant knew him when he was a buck sergeant at the School of Music teaching there. To see him go from that, as one of your first influences, to the senior man in the field running the show, that’s a very neat thing,” added Streeter.
At his promotion ceremony, Jacob addressed his Marine musicians with a heartfelt message.
“I’ll soon be going to Headquarters Marine Corps and will most likely never lead a band again,” he said. “But I’m OK with that because I know with me here are the finest, most loyal and exceptional Marine bandsmen I have ever had the privilege to lead. I have no doubt that one of you Marines here will be standing in my shoes someday. Here I see the future of Marine Corps leadership.”
As he readies to depart for his new position, which has gone unfilled the past few years, Jacob said his main goal is to give the Corps’ band field a solid foundation on which to grow.
“I have seen that the band field has lacked stability and direction over the last 10 years,” said Jacob. “Each person who has taken charge recently has wanted to take things in a new direction each time, and that has not been healthy. That is especially true when that direction is contrary to the direction that the Marine Corps is going in.
“What I would like to do is give some stability and a course of direction for the band field that is going to be consistent with the goals of the Marine Corps, that is going to be healthy for the field,” added Jacob.
Although he may not be regularly behind the podium anymore, Jacob said he still wishes to stay closely associated with Marine musicians and especially the band here at Twentynine Palms.
“There could not be a better person to fill this position, and I’m sure the band field will go well beyond anyone’s expectations because he’s going to be there at the top,” said Streeter.