MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- More than one hundred Marines participated in Master Sgt. Roberto Pou’s 5K retirement run sponsored by Semper Fit Friday on station.
Pou spent 22 of his 26 years on station and has been extremely active in the Semper Fit program ever since his first assignment with Marine Aircraft Group 13 in 1979 and even made drives from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. to do so.
“When I got to Yuma I spent just as much time at the gym as I did at work, and I never missed a fun run,” said Pou. “Even when I was at Twentynine Palms I’d make it down here for the Sergeant Major’s Perimeter Run and Half Marathon. I always appreciated that Semper Fit put so many things together for the troops.”
Pou and his successor, Master Sgt. John Avelar, presented the idea of having a fun run to celebrate Pou’s retirement to Semper Fit personnel and they gladly took on the task.
“They approached us and wanted to do something positive that would promotes the health and welfare of Marines,” said Bree McGregor, station health and fitness coordinator. “He thought a fun run would be a great way to promote the things he feels epitomizes the Marine Corps for him.”
The relationship between Pou and Semper Fit and Marine Corps Community Services is one mutual respect and appreciation, he said.
“It’s not only the runs,” he said. “If MCCS is putting anything together for us, it’s important to participate. Many Marines complain about there not being anything to do here, but MCCS provides so many activities for us to participate in. If they don’t participate, they’ll never know how much fun they can have. I appreciate everything they do.”
Pou’s relationship with Semper Fit goes back a long way also and he has several great memories involving their events, including being taught how to swim by Don Vincent, station assistant athletic coordinator, fifteen years ago.
“He tapped me on the head and said, ‘You’re wasting your time and energy,’” explained Pou. “He showed me some different techniques and I became a much better swimmer my learning and applying them.”
Pou said his favorite memory with a Semper Fit event came in 1996 with the Devil Dog Duathlon, which no longer takes place.
“In 1996 I won the overall Devil Dog Duathlon,” he said. “I think that was the last one they had. It was an event that had Marines run three miles, bike fifteen miles to Canon Air Defense Complex and then run three more miles.”
The people of Semper Fit have the same respect for Pou and felt honored to be a part of his retirement, said McGregor.
“It means a lot to Semper Fit to know that a Marine who has spent twenty-six years in the military would want us to play such a big role in his retirement on his final day in the Marine Corps,” she explained. “It’s good to know we have the support of Marines like Master Sgt. Pou because he’s the type of Marine that makes our program work.”
Pou has not only supported Semper Fit through the years by personally participating in their events, but he has also consistently promoted their events to other Marines across the station, said Avelar.
“Our Marines attend every fun run that’s held by Semper Fit,” said Avelar. “Top has always been the one to push the participation. Even when there’s something going on out in town he gets the fliers and puts the word out.”
Pou said he promotes the runs to Marines because he knows it’s good for them to participate no matter how much they want to deny it.
“A lot of Marines don’t look forward to the fun runs at first, but they don’t think about the raffles, the prizes and the competition,” Pou explained. “I notice that every time we do a fun run the Marines always end up coming back to work in good spirits.”
As far as other Marines having Semper Fit runs for their retirements, McGregor said they try to support the station as much as possible, but Pou is definitely a special case.
“He’s always been an avid runner and a huge supporter of Semper Fit and all the activities we offer,” she explained. “He talks a lot about making the most of where you’re stationed. He’s a special case for us because he’s at every event we offer. Also, we know we can call him at any time and he’ll support what we’re doing.”
Pou stressed one piece of advice he wanted to pass to all station Marines before leaving the Marine Corps and he said it helped him be so successful in the Corps and in his life.
“Respect each other,” he said. “You should treat every Marine the way you want to be treated regardless of rank. It’s all about respect and if you give it, you get it.”