MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- A young lance corporal stood upon the blistering flight line of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., Thursday morning, accompanied by his comrades in arms, in preparation for an official ceremony recognizing him as the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Marine of the Year, and a meritorious promotion to the non-commissioned officer ranks.
Little did Lance Cpl. Joshua R. Gregory know that this prestigious formality, conducted in his honor, would play host to a very unique and unexpected guest.
“I was, for a lack of something less cheesy, star struck,” said Gregory, a ground support equipment mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and Phoenix native. “I didn’t know anything until he came out of the car. I pretty much knew who he was when I saw him; and that feeling was confirmed when sergeant major stormed over to me and told me to put my cover on and salute him.”
The surprise guest of honor was none other than the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, who had arrived at MCAS Yuma only a half-hour prior.
Upon landing, Amos was transported to Field 555 here to observe the winter training of the Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment out of Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.
The impromptu visit allowed the Commandant to see the Battle Color Detachment practice for their upcoming 2014 performance season and spend a few minutes talking with the Marines.
After the quick stopover, Amos turned back to the matter at hand and emerged at the ceremony upon the flight line; upon which he greeted the overawed Gregory, along with his family, and meritoriously promoted him to a corporal of Marines.
“Corporal Gregory has entered that group of Marines [NCOs] who are entrusted with the charge of 144,500 Marines,” said Amos, in emphasis of his reawakening campaign. “So this is a big deal, to be able to come here to Yuma and meet his family while administering his oath of office.”
Though the Commandant is not in Yuma often, he explained the station is no stranger to him.
“I always love coming back here - it’s kind of where my roots were as a young guy,” said Amos. “Not only is it the greatest place on the face of the Earth to fly airplanes out of and train, it’s also a great place to live."
“For today, it’s particularly good because it is 85 degrees here, and back home in Washington, it is 15 degrees and covered in snow,” said Amos with a grin. “All my buddies back there are probably shoveling their driveways.”
This day will unmistakably cement itself into the memories of Gregory, who has worked so diligently during his time with MALS-13 to embody all of the characteristics, morals, and work-ethic symbolic of a highly motivated Marine.
Nevertheless, this will be a day that no Marine present at the ceremony will forget; the same brothers and sisters who have stood beside Gregory throughout his perennial journey, and who Gregory is so proud to serve with each and every day.
“Today was hardly as much my day as it was theirs’,” said Gregory. “My whole shop has always had my back in what I wanted to do. They never told me I couldn’t volunteer or do MCI’s [online Marine training] or MCMAP [Marine Corps Martial Arts Program]; they supported me in everything I did. Same thing with my wife, mom and family; this whole experience has just been amazing, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”