Cpl. Randy Mann, right, receives a Navy and Marine Achievement Medal from Capt. Tim Riemann during a surprise award ceremony June 13 at a Southern California Chili's. (Courtesy Tim Riemann)
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It was the perfect ambush.
Cpl. Randy Mann, an assault amphibious vehicle crewman on terminal leave, was lured to a Southern California Chili’s by his Marine buddies who said they wanted to bid him farewell before he departed for Texas, his home state, the next day.
But it was a ruse. Instead, his commander showed up and presented him with a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal in front of a packed restaurant on June 13.
Mann said he began to grow suspicious after his former platoon sergeant dragged the meal out longer than a typical lunch. When his CO, Capt. Tim Riemann, arrived, it all clicked.
“It called the attention of the whole restaurant,” said Mann, who oversaw an armory for the Camp Pendleton, California-based 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion. “I could tell there were a few other Marines there by their haircuts, but I’m pretty sure nobody had ever seen anything like that.”
By the time he was presented his NAM, Mann had already been on terminal leave for nearly a month. Although he still had a regulation haircut, it was complemented by a full face of hair.
“I’m pretty damn sure this was the best/craziest way to present a NAM! In the middle of Chili’s, with a beard, at the position of attention!” he wrote on his Facebook page.
“They were really proud of the work I had done in the armory,” he told Marine Corps Times Thursday. “There was a lot of money that was under my charge, and they thought it was more deserving to present [the award] in person rather than sending it in the mail.”
Mann, who recently moved home to his native San Antonio, was cited for keeping track of $147 million of serialized gear while overseeing the issue of weapons and equipment to units heading to the field for training or deployment.
Mann said he is also up for another award — he’s not sure which one, exactly — stemming from his rescue of two Marines during a Martial Arts Instructor course training accident. When ocean currents pulled two Marines about a quarter of a mile out to sea, Mann swam out to them, told them to drop their gear and helped them get back to dry land.
“One almost died,” he said. “He was hypothermic, had low oxygen levels and water in his lungs.”
“Even after being out of the Marine Corps for a month and a half, I still get surprised by the dedication our brothers have toward each other,” he said in response to his unit’s efforts to award his NAM in person. “It is pretty astounding the captain took that much time out of his day to present an award like that.”