MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (June 7, 2011) --
It’s tough to see the good ones go, but Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent graciously gave up his post as sergeant major of the Marine Corps to Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett during a post and relief ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington in Washington, D.C., June 9, 2011.
Prior to putting the final touches on his 35-plus year career, Kent spent the past few months visiting Marines across the Corps – from deployed Marines in Afghanistan to the more than 1,700 stateside Marines he visited at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point June 7.
“He came here to see these Marines one last time,” said Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Bailey, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point sergeant major. “He genuinely cares about his Marines.”
The Marines arrived at the station theater early, and Kent caught most of them off guard when he walked in from behind them while they were already seated.
“What’s going on devil dogs?” Kent said in his raspy, rugged voice that still bears strain from his days as a drill instructor. “I was not going to miss this opportunity to come out for the last time to say, thank you.”
In a very conversational manner, Kent went on to share several stories from his time in the Corps, continually reiterating his confidence in today’s Marines.
“My whole adult life I’ve been a Marine, and all I know are you fellow warriors,” he stated. “I can tell you I’m leaving the Marine Corps with a sense of pride, knowing the Marine Corps legacy will continue because of great warriors like you.”
Kent’s legacy in the Corps began in 1976 when he left his home in Memphis, Tenn., for the famous yellow footprints of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.
“I never thought I would be the sergeant major of the Marine Corps,” Kent said. “All I can say is don’t worry about your next rank because as long as you take care of Marines, Marines are going to take care of you.”
Kent’s enthusiasm kept the Marines’ attention throughout, connecting with them on levels of laughter and seriousness.
“He is still full of energy,” said Lance Cpl. Lucas B. Johnson, a bulk fuel specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274.
Johnson added that he always appreciated the way Sgt. Maj. Kent worked for the Marines and understood the kind of things they go through.
“He’s basically us all grown up,” Johnson said.
Putting Kent’s career in perspective, one of his former recruits was among those in attendance at the theater.
“Master gunns – come down here,” Kent said to Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Pemberton, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing G3 operations chief. “I know it’s time for me to retire when I’ve got recruits that are sergeants major and master gunnery sergeants.”
Pemberton modestly walked down and stood next to the sergeant major, and Kent told him how proud he was of him, but that he wanted to make sure he wouldn’t tell anybody what he used to do to them as a senior drill instructor.
Pemberton grinned and leaned over into the microphone in Kent’s hand, saying, “Wait until he leaves, I’ll tell you guys anything you want to know.”
Kent smiled while taking a parting glance at the Marines and Sailors across the theater, before leaving them with his lasting words.
“I’m proud of you devil dogs, and remember, the eagle, globe and anchor is branded in our hearts forever.”