ARLINGTON, Va. — The mercury read a bitter 6 six degrees here near Washington, D.C., Friday eb. 20 as the post of sergeant major of the Marine Corps changed hands from Sgt. Maj. Micheal Barrett to Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green.
At the request of Barrett, the relief and appointment ceremony on Friday took place in front of the famous war memorial depicting Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. And though the stark cold required outdoor space heaters and a snow removal team before the morning ceremony, hundreds of Marine leaders showed up and the event continued as planned.
"Sgt. Maj. Barrett wouldn't want it any other way," said his spokesman, Gunnery Sgt. Chanin Nuntavong.
Mindful of the cold, the Marines kept the ceremony brief.
Barrett, 51, who has served as 17th sergeant major of the Marine Corps since 2011 and retires after 34 years of service, was honored with a Distinguished Service Medal and a certificate of appreciation from the president. In the medal citation, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus hailed Barrett's work to overhaul the Marine Corps' enlisted professional military education system, including the development of a lance corporals' course and new PME requirements for promotion, and his work to support military families.
He was also presented with a flag that had flown over the Marine Corps War Memorial on Feb. 19 — 70 years to the minute that the Marines launched their famous assault on Iwo Jima.
"I am immensely grateful to have served the country that I love and to have stood next to the youth of America who wear our cloth," Barrett said.
He also honored recruiters, "the lifeblood of our institution," inviting up his own recruiter, retired 1st Sgt. Ronald Swann, to be recognized.
Barrett recalled his first meeting then-Gunnery Sgt. Swann in a recruiter's office 34 years ago.
"[Swann] grabbed my chin and turned it to the left and right, and said, 'Do you shave every day, boy?'" Barrett remembered. "I said, 'no.' He said, 'I'll take care of that.' I've been shaving every day ever since!"
Barrett presented Swann with his very last sergeant major of the Marine Corps SMMC challenge coin.
Green, 50, who previously served as sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force, thanked his family and the assembled guests and gestured to the memorial.
"Today is about the Iwo Jima monument that stands behind us, those who fight in harm's way right now so we can sit here," he said.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, who presided over the ceremony, had words of praise for both sergeants major.
He recognized Barrett's combat mettle as an infantry scout sniper, his leadership as sergeant major of I MEF (Forward) in Afghanistan, and his work on behalf of Marines and families as sergeant major of the Marine Corps.
"You have the admiration, appreciation and affection of your fellow Marines, me included," Dunford said.
Green, he said, had already proven himself over the course of his 31-year Marine Corps career.
"[Green] has established himself as a superb Marine," Dunford said. "... He will be an absolutely superb sergeant major of the Marine Corps."
In a poignant moment, Barrett and Green closed out the ceremony by inviting to join them the two former sergeants major of the Marine Corps in attendance: Al McMichael and Carlton Kent, the 14th and 16th Marines to hold the position. The four men stood at attention as Alpha and Bravo companies from Marine Barracks Washington conducted a pass-in-review.