CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing is a man who gets things done  — and that has earned him the complete respect of subordinates and superiors alike.

One officer said he counts classified Downing among s one of the top three Marines he has ever served alongside seen. And the gunny's Though technically a subordinate, Downing’s platoon commanderplatoon sergeant [[[Is this in reference to Levey? Is that the right title? GH]]] called Downing the platoon sergeant with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines him "to be the greatest mentor I have ever had." Staff noncommissioned officers NCOs say id they are "astounded" by his example. Junior Marines described him as a "father figure" who has their full trust.

Downing, a platoon sergeant with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, is a fast burner who made gunny picked up his second rocker in just 10 years. He's just one semester away from a master's degree Master’s Degree in leadership from Boston University, and while he Yes, he still gets the occasionally gets a raised eyebrow when people learn he chose the enlisted ranks after graduating college, . But Downing said he is in it for the outcome, not the income.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing, Marine Corps Times Service Member of the Year, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Marine Corps Photos)
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing, Marine Corps Times Service Member of the Year, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Marine Corps Photos)

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing, Marine Corps Times Service Member of the Year, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: Marine Corps Photo

"If I wanted to make money, I wouldn't have joined the Marine Corps in the first place," he said.

Indeed, the gunny’s efforts are anything but self-serving. This is evident as one strolls through the patch of earth his battalion calls home. Unwilling to see his Marines live in dilapidated barracks, he Downing tirelessly studied the supply system to figure out how to get obtain materials needed to renovate 90 barracks rooms, common areas, and duty posts here. He scoured renovation schedules, and moved in like a hawk when older barracks in buildings were shut down, nabbing he moved in like a hawk to nab serviceable appliances and furniture refrigerators, desks, and bedding.

He put in hundreds of hours of painting, building and restoring furniture, decorating, and landscaping. And before Before long, Marines were volunteering on weekends to help finish the projects.

When the dust settled, the rest of the battalion  stood jealous — and soon followed his example. In all, the gunny helped improve the quality of life for more than 1,000 Marines was affected. It's for these reasons that Downing is the 2016 Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year. 

'A breath of fresh air' 

The effort Downing put into fixing building the barracks was just one example of the gunny looking out for nothing compared to the effort he puts into building his Marines, said 1st Lt. Adam Levey, his platoon commander. Together, they built a Combined Anti-Armor Team, or CAT Platoon, that just deployed for the Middle East with the  is the envy of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, which set sail June 25 on a planned six-month pump.

After four deployments — including two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan — Downing knows it's important for his Marines to have what they need while downrange. Before the MEU pump, the gunny teamed with Levey and his section leaders to make a list of gear that they needed, wanted or would be nice to have. Next came countless hours identifying, petitioning, and ultimately obtaining dozens of items most Marines only dream of having. If it was not authorized, Downing he found a way out how to get it authorized.

The winners of our 16th annual Military Times Service Members of the Year awards did not seek honors for the outstanding work they performed on the job and in their communities.

That is what makes this award so special: They were nominated by peers and commanders inspired by serving alongside troops who truly went above and beyond the call of duty. In shining a spotlight on the 2016 Service Members of the Year, we salute all who have volunteered to serve their nation in uniform.

This year's winners will be honored July 14 at a Capitol Hill gala with members of Congress and other VIPs. 

Once they had the gear in tow, With the complete cache on the books, the gunny assessed his platoon's skills and built new rewrote standard operating procedures that highlighted his Marines' training and strengths o accurately reflect current tactics with his unit’s technologies and training. The team had skills s proven itself capable on numerous missions beyond the anti-armor mission, and he wanted to show the battalion what they were capable of. assignment in deployment work-ups.

Nearly all of Downing’s Marines have a Humvee license or ammunition , for example, and while 85 percent have ammo certifications, for example. A few and handful are even qualified 7-ton truck drivers. So Downing honed their land navigation skills through some hardcore training over the last 14 months. The team, While field and foot skills of vehicle-mounted machine gunners are typically suspect, don’t let this team fool you. The former rifle platoon sergeant honed their patrolling and land nav capabilities over the past 14 months with hard-core tactical laser tag while wearing a full kit, and using the upgraded Blue Force Tracker. His team, which includes a one dozen qualified rifle coaches, now serves as the MEU’s Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel, or TRAP team.

Yet platoon members are quick to point out that Downing’s greatest effort has not been spent in building barracks or building a combat-ready team, but rather in taking care of  building the individual Marines in under his charge. He "lives by the Marine Corps motto of sustaining the transformation," Levey said.

Downing said he goes out of his way to do this because he "can't run this platoon alone."

"I care so much more about them being NCOs than simply being a rifleman — about being a corporal of Marines than just being a radio operator," Downing said. "You should be a good radio operator — that's the default. But I need you to be a strong, solid backbone corporal to support this platoon, because I can't do run this platoon alone."

Downing holds his Marines accountable, but he also goes out of his way to help his troops get back on track if they make a mistake. equally known to put in extra hours to rehabilitate Marines that have made mistakes and would typically be written off. The former drill instructor is also known to journey to School of Infantry-East at Camp Geiger weeks before each graduation. There, he finds the Marines who have been assigned to his battalion. He talks about the legacy they will inherit, and ensures all personal and administrative needs have been addressed.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing, Marine Corps Times Service Member of the Year, doing PT with his fellow Marines. outside barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Marine Corps Photos)
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing, Marine Corps Times Service Member of the Year, doing PT with his fellow Marines. outside barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. (Marine Corps Photos)

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing conducts PT outside the barracks at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Photo Credit: Marine Corps Photo

"He was a breath of fresh air," said Lance Cpl. David Kirby, an anti-tank missileman TOW gunner who remembers Downing’s initial visit well. "I had a hard time getting people to help me get my wife in DEERS [the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System]. He was on it first thing, and had it taken care of before I even graduated.

"The rest of the students were like 'Who is that guy, and why isn't my platoon sergeant over here?'"

Downing's platoon stands ready to receive those new Marines as they report to the battalion. NCOs with 6th Marine Regiment attach the French Fourragere they're authorized to wear on their shoulders for the unit's involvement in three significant World War I battles, and fellow Marine are assigned to help check them in and get them settled.

Capt. Daniel Wendolowski, the weapons company commander, said Downing's this ability to inspire his Marines and get them to whole heartedly buy in "is simply remarkable." Though nearly 90 percent of his platoon has never deployed, each Marine is well ahead of career milestones and has achieved multiple combat and job qualifications beyond what's required of them. their requirements.

Camaraderie has been strengthened by monthly professional military education PME events that have reviewed tactical and ethical decisions from the Civil War through Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Marines have been to places like Fort Fisher in North Carolina and the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The trips "breed cohesiveness," said Sgt. Brian Willett, second section leader.

Staff Sgt. Steven Herbst, first section leader, said Downing is the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night.

"He is the first to arrive in the morning, and last to leave at night," said Staff Sgt. Steven Herbst, 1st section leader. "I’ve not seen that kind of commitment from someone in my 11 years of service," he said. "I’ve seen good staff sergeants and gunnies, but he takes it above and beyond."