“The Marines in uniform today, every single one of them, had a choice and they all chose to serve. I get to serve them, and I am privileged to get to serve in this capacity,” said newly appointed Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Micheal P. Barrett after he took the reins as the senior enlisted advisor to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Barrett became the 17th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps during a relief and appointment ceremony June 9 at Marine Barracks Washington as Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent retired from the Corps.
It was 90-degrees and humid throughout the evening in the 210-year-old Marine post in downtown Washington when the sword of office was handed to Barrett, signifying the transition in responsibility. Nonetheless, all Marines in attendance were in their “dress blues,” a uniform of a jacket and trousers that distinguish Marines since the 1800s.
The warm night only intensified two of the Corps’ most top enlisted Marines when they were center stage during the scripted traditional ceremony to impart their genuine comments. Their voices bellowed through the post’s courtyard corridors – Kent reflecting on his 35-year career and Barrett sharing anecdotes of Marines he’s met and the excitement on becoming a leader of a “fearless and selfless” force.
“I expect all of our Marines to continue to be selfless. I expect our Marines to continue to sacrifice for one another. I expect our Marines to continue to do brave deeds and endure the tough times that lay ahead,” Barrett said.
The position of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps was established in 1957 and was the first such post in any of the branches of the United States Armed Forces. Typically, it’s a duty served for four years at the Commandant’s discretion.
Barrett praised Kent for his successful tour and said he plans to carry on from where Kent left off – to “work in line with the commandant’s priorities and modernize the force.”
“I’m going to be focused on all the issues. I’m going to give it all of my effort. I’m going to give it all of my energies, and I’m going to enthusiastically continue to coalesce the team,” Barrett said.
Before the appointment that brought Barrett to his current post, he was serving as the sergeant major of 1st Marine Division, a combat-ready unit of almost 20,000 Marines and sailors headquartered at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
He recently returned from a deployment to Helmand province, Afghanistan, where he served as Regional Command Southwest’s sergeant major.
Sgt. Maj. Anthony Spadaro said to consider the appointment of Barrett a warning order – “everyone better bring their ‘A-game’ when he’s around.” Spadaro was the sergeant major of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), a unit recently deployed to Afghanistan that supported Barrett and his Marines when conducting combat operations in Helmand province.
“Duty is not just a sublime word to Sgt. Maj. Barrett. It’s everything to him,” said Spadaro. “We’re talking about a transcendental Marine who’s ideal for the part.”
In addition to a leader of Marines in a combat zone, Barrett was a sniper early in his career, made Marines as a drill instructor, and led Marines on the forward edge of the warzone – to include two tours to Iraq as battalion sergeant major of the battle-hardened 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment.
“The man is a warfighter,” said Kent, describing Barrett. “And, he’s a leader. The Marine Corps is in great shape because of the leaders that we have.”
Kent said he’s going to do “the most important thing” a Marine should do when he retires from the Corps – spend quality time with the family.
Throughout his 35 years of service in the Corps, Kent has served as a drill instructor and made Marine aviators as a chief drill instructor and senior enlisted advisor at Naval Aviation Officers Candidate School in Pensacola, Fla. He took on lead roles a sergeant major of an artillery battalion, sergeant major of the West Coast’s Recruit Training Regiment, and sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force, a position that put him in front of tens of thousands of Marines and sailors.
He said it was an honor to serves as a leader, and he’s leaving with a sense of pride in knowing that the Marines today are living up to the legacy Marines from the past have created.