From the Halls of Montezuma to Smith Valley
One day I noticed the Stars and Stripes being flown over a Marine Corps flag next door. The Marines have landed. Doug Power is a sergeant major. There are more colonels in the Marine Corps than sergeant majors. Having just retired after 32 years, he is now the community plans and liaison person for the Marine Corps’ Mountain Warfare Training Center on Sonora Pass.
In 1979, America’s Ambassador to Iran, and a contingent of Marines were being held hostage in Teheran. In Phoenix, a segment of the high school graduating class decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. Doug Power was one of them. In those days Doug wanted to, “join the Marines and see the world.” And he did. He also used the Marine Corps as an opportunity.
“Have you had any mentors along the way?” I ask. “Oh yes, lots of mentors. The Marine Corps philosophy is, mentor, teach, coach. Another feature of the Corps is, if you don’t attain a certain rank in a given amount of time, you have to get out,” he says, with a benign smile. Being a civilian, the “get out” part seems a trifle harsh, but I get his point. Doug reminds me of Clint Eastwood, on a good day.
Following a rundown of his career duty assignments, I ask, “Why in heaven’s name did you apply for drill instructor duty?” “Simple. You get extra points toward promotion and I had a family to support. I spent two years at Parris Island, S.C. I once worked 12-to-16 hour days for 42 days straight. The Marine Corps pushes you to do things you never thought you could do,” he says. Doug likes to remind me about the “pushes you” part several times during our meeting. Mid-career, he realized he had to have a college degree for advancement, so he went to college and got a degree in political science. He also served in Korea and Okinawa.
“You said you were stationed in Hawaii for 11 years. Do you suppose you were sent there because you had a large family?” I ask, thinking I might find a chink in Marine Corps professionalism. “No way,” he says, looking at me as if I’d suddenly lost my mind. “I was sent there at the discretion of the Marine Corps. They needed a Motor Transport Chief for the Infantry Battalion, simple as that. But hey, it wasn’t too bad. I even learned to play golf,” he says. During his time in Hawaii, he was sent to Iraq in 2003 and again in 2004 where he was assigned to a Signals Intelligence Battalion.
Sitting on my patio, in the warm afternoon sun, I comment, “You feel about the Marine Corps the way I feel about my life in show business. It has to be total commitment. Either you love it or you get out.” Looking me straight in the eye, he says, “You have to love the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. As a sergeant major, my goal was to train Marines and win battles. Seeing all those young men and women every day, is what kept me coming to work,” he says.
“Doug, after 32 years in the Marine Corps, how do you assess your life?” I ask. “Ron, I got better than I deserve,” he says.
Do I have a great neighbor, or what?
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley.