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U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Garrett Palmer, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point rifle range poses for a photo in front the rifle range sign at MCAS Cherry Point, North Carolina, March 20, 2023. Palmer shows his leadership through respect and compassion and builds leaders for the future. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jade Farrington)

Photo by Cpl. Jade Farrington

Leadership - GySgt Palmer Feature Story

17 May 2023 | Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

As a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marine Corps, Garrett Palmer has learned what it means to lead Marines and train the next generation of war fighters. Throughout his 19 years in the Marine Corps, Gunnery Sgt. Palmer has learned from his predecessors how to build relationships with younger Marines, which has led him to be a true mentor throughout their Marine Corps journey.   

As Palmer reflected on his long career, he recalls the story that still is particularly fond to him. On a hot day at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, right after he’d hit the fleet. U.S. Marine Corps Private First Class (Pfc.) Palmer needed to check the time on his flip phone, a rule the Marine Corps instills in its Marines from the beginning of their training – no walking and talking on the phone at the same time. A senior enlisted Marine saw Palmer and misread the whole situation, accusing him of walking and taking on the phone. The older man stomped outside to meet Palmer and proceeded to correct the situation.

Quick to clear up the whole situation, it was the word of a senior enlisted Marine versus a Pfc., and a senior would never lose a battle. They tossed a safety vest his way and set him to guard the building from other “rule breakers” in the hot sun.

As he stood outside, sweat dripped from his hairline onto his brow. He didn’t even bother to wipe it away, there was no use. It’d only be back as quick a it had been wiped. The chow hall breakfast smell danced under his nose and the breeze tussled the orange safety vest as it blew.

Marines of every rank were sent outside to pretend to walk and talk on their phones, forcing PFC Palmer to call them out as he guarded.

“The Marine Corps has changed a little bit since then,” said Gunnery Sgt. Garrett Palmer, staff noncommissioned officer (SNCO) in charge at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point range. “For them, at the time, it was fun. They needed a laugh and that was the culture back then, to make everything as hard as possible for the young Marines, to shape through pressure, and not necessarily through field training.”

In 2004, when Gunnery Sgt. Palmer was just Pfc. Palmer, these types of “Old Marine Corps” stories were every junior Marines reality. Living through these experiences, Palmer realized that he saw the value in being a mentor.

Palmer knows that having a professional bond between junior Marines and staff is important to a cohesive unit. He often finds time during the day to sit and crack jokes with his young Marines, and asks them about their days, providing a space for Marines to feel more like a family.

“He introduced himself on my second day here and kept asking me questions, like he was actually trying to get to know me,” says U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Curtis Taylor, a combat marksmanship trainer assigned to H&HS on MCAS Cherry Point range. “Having a SNCO actually care about who I was as a person was a huge difference from past experiences.”

As a leader, Palmer has stepped up to bat for his Marines and made sure they know he is there to guide them through anything. Through his own success and failures, Palmer seeks to motivate his Marines through guided discussions and problem-solving lessons on a small-unit level, a necessary for junior Marines about to take on the role of noncommissioned officer.

“He is constantly reinforcing the idea of treat others how you want to be treated,” Taylor said. “He leads by example and genuinely cares about every single one of his Marines. I try to apply the things he’s taught me to my juniors now, and to all the other Marines I meet. He’s left a lasting impression.”

A little communication can go a long way to make a cohesive unit, and Palmer shows this. All it takes is sitting down with your Marines and asking about their day and leading by example, showing them you care. Palmer proves that having a peer to mentor bond impacts the workplace more positively than a leader to follower environment.

“I hope when I leave here [Marine Corps] that I leave a lasting impression on my juniors,” Palmer said. “So, when they become SNCO’s, they treat their juniors with respect and compassion as well.”  

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Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point