MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- After serving 22 months as the Headquarters Battalion commanding officer, Lt. Col. Ronald A. Gridley stepped down from his duties March 13 in a change of command ceremony, held at the commanding general’s parade field, continuing his journey in the Marine Corps with a deployment to Iraq in the near future.
Gridley’s honorable service in the Corps began in April 1986 when he was commissioned a second lieutenant after completing the 10-week Officer Candidate Course. Prior to attending the course, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from California State University, Fresno, in December 1985. His interest in joining the Corps resulted from an experience when he was a senior at Lemoore High School.
“My girlfriend’s father, who is now my father-in-law, invited us to his Marine Corps Ball,” said Gridley, a Fresno, Calif., native. “He was a first sergeant. Up until that day, I was always bad-mouthing the military. But, the experience I had at the ball changed my opinion. The camaraderie and bond the Marines had with each other that day made me want to be a part of them.”
Gridley’s first duty station was at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was assigned as a platoon commander with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. His first command answered his ongoing question before joining the “War Dogs.”
“I always wondered if I was prepared,” said Gridley. “It was an eye-opening experience, but very motivating and rewarding. It was everything I expected it to be. I served with Marines of great caliber. The staff noncommissioned officers that I worked with then helped out a lot with my thoughts as a commander, as well as my career pattern.”
Gridley left 2/7 in 1988 and was selected to serve as the Aide de Camp to the assistant division commander of 1st Marine Division. In August 1989, he was transferred to the School of Infantry, Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he activated Company I, Marine Combat Training Battalion.
“The school was growing large in students, so a staff was put together for another company, which I became commanding officer of,” he said.
He also served as the Instructor Company commander, MCT.
In 1991, Gridley was promoted to the rank of captain and received orders to III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.
While assigned to III MEF, Gridley served as an action officer in the operations section and served as officer-in-charge of the command center. In 1992, he was assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, serving as the assistant operations officer.
In 1994, Gridley attended the Armor Officer Advance Course and Cavalry Leaders Course at Fort Knox, Ky. Upon completion of the courses in January 1995, Gridley reported to 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and became company commander of Bravo Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. From there he deployed to Panama in support of security force operations. His company was tasked with providing security for Rodman Naval Station, a U.S. Naval station on the Panama Canal.
Gridley, at the rank of major in 1998, was reassigned to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He was tasked to be the operations officer and executive officer for Weapons and Field Training Battalion, and as the operations officer for the Recruit Training Regiment.
“Parris Island was a great place to go after posting command most of my career,” said Gridley. “I enjoyed watching the drill instructors turning long-hairs, which I once was, into Marines. It was a unique experience. It was the most positive, life-influential tour I had.”
Gridley completed the Air Command and Staff non-resident program in 2001 and was assigned to Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Headquarters Marine Corps where he served as the Ground Combat Arms Majors Monitor. Upon promotion to lieutenant colonel in 2003, he returned overseas to serve as the operations officer for the 31st MEU, Okinawa, Japan.
“I never really put a time limit on the years I served in the Marine Corps,” said Gridley. “My wife and I always discussed that as long as I am still enjoying what I do in the Marine Corps, I’ll continue to press on. I just have really been enjoying myself these past 20 years.”
Gridley enjoyed his time and unique challenges as Headquarters Battalion commander, he said.
“I spent so much time working with infantry battalions that this assignment opened my eyes on what a lot of Marines do,” said Gridley. “There are so many different military occupational specialties in this battalion. It was very rewarding to be a part of this battalion these past 22 months. I especially enjoyed talking to the Marines with different MOS’s.”
Gridley is expected to join Regimental Combat Team 7 and their efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom this spring.
“Until the day I deploy, I’m going to do what I always enjoyed doing — watching my kids grow, spending time with them and my wife and settling into our new house,” said Gridley.
Gridley, his wife, Michelle, his 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, and his 12-year-old son, Mark, recently moved into a new home in Yucca Valley, Calif.
His presence will definitely be missed in the battalion, said Master Sgt. Robert W. Cole, adjutant chief with Headquarters Battalion.
“It’s been a pleasure working for him,” said Cole, a Cortland, N.Y., native. “He’s a fair man. He holds every Marine accountable for their actions. He’s the best commanding officer I had the pleasure of working with as a staff NCO. He’s a compassionate person, but knows where compassion has to end. Marines respect him because he was a very respectable man.
“One of my highlights of coming in on Mondays was talking to him about NASCAR racing,” he continued. “He was just as much a fan as I was.”
His calm demeanor, high morale and great sense of humor is what most of his coworkers will miss, said Maj. David M. Blankenship, Headquarters Battalion’s executive officer.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better battalion commander than him,” said Blankenship, a Baltimore native. “I worked with a lot of battalion commanders. I know that his relationship was the best with the Marines.
“I will never forget the colonel’s Fresno State references and his ‘Gridleyism,’” continued Blankenship. “‘Don’t be a chocolate mess’ is the best example of one of his Gridleyisms. So, I wish him the best of luck going back to the Fleet Marine Forces where the earth pigs rule. He’s going to be missed. He was a favorable battalion commanding officer.”
Being around Marines who are here to serve for one main reason has been the best feeling for Gridley, he said. He regrets the feeling of losing friends and Marines over his time in the Corps.
“It’s hard being in this business, knowing some are never coming back,” said Gridley. “But it’s something we all accepted. There are families out there that feel the same pain, but it’s a different business for them.
“Moving around all the time, before and during my tour in the Marines, I ran into a lot of people and their life stories,” said Gridley. “I tried listening to as much as I could.”
Gridley learned Marines need to take care of one another and take time to remember the sacrifices Marines are making today in order to enjoy what they have and what they do, he said.