With 31 years of Marine Corps experience, Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green, 50, has spent more of his life inside the Corps than out.
During those years, he has experienced the scope of Marine Corps operations, from the drill field at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, to Al-Taqaddum Air Base in Iraq, and Headquarters Marine Corps at Henderson Hall, Virginia.
On Feb. 20, he'll become the 18th sergeant major of the Marine Corps — the top enlisted Marine in the Corps and Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford's senior enlisted adviser. Green's dynamic leadership is known throughout the ranks of the Marine Corps, and his experiences during peacetime and combat make him well-suited for the job, Dunford said in a statement.
More on the next sergeant major of the Marine Corps: Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green selected as 18th SMMC
Green, who is completing a tour as sergeant major of I Marine Expeditionary Force spoke to Marine Corps Times from Camp Pendleton, California, about his career and his priorities as the next sergeant major of the Marine Corps.
Excerpts of that interview, edited for clarity:
Q. Why did you choose to join the Marine Corps?
A. My best friend John Davis and I were in college [at Alcorn State in Mississippi] back in '83. We weren't real focused on going to school, didn't think it was our time and wanted to do something different. Our parents were insistent that we do something positive, of course ... and we decided the military was the best thing for us.
We looked at all the services. The Marine Corps wasn't selling any education, wasn't selling any trinkets. It was toughness, and they guaranteed that it was going to make us men and grow us up. So we accepted the challenge.
Q. When did you know that you wanted to be a career Marine?
A. I knew from the time I graduated from boot camp I had joined something much greater than myself and I wanted to be a part of it. I've never looked away from retiring in the Marine Corps. I knew I wanted to do 20. Then I got to 20 and I still felt good, felt like I could still support the Marines and their families. Here I am 31 years later.
Q. How did your time as a drill instructor at Parris Island in 1990 inform the rest of your Marine Corps experience?
A. First it made me reflect back to when I was a recruit. It made me take a deep look at myself. The fact that there are people from all around the world that are coming to the Marine Corps for different reasons, and our goal is to shape them into being one Marine, one heart, one blood, one soul. We all bleed green. The drill field gave me a perspective that I don't think I could have gotten anyplace else. It allowed me to understand exactly how we make Marines.
Q. You were selected from a field of highly qualified sergeants major, some with prestigious combat valor awards. What do you bring to the position?
A. First of all, I don't know what made Gen. Dunford choose me. After you've been around the Marine Corps for a while, you realize that it's all about taking care of Marines, sailors and families, whether you're in combat or whether you're back in peacetime. We don't go around counting one another's ribbons and, you know, kind of stacking each other up. We're actually too busy to do that. I was selected, I accepted it, and I'm going to do my best to continue doing what I've been doing.
Q. What was your interview with Gen. Dunford like?
A. There weren't questions; it was actually a conversation. It was just the same things we talk about every day in the Marine Corps. We talk about our readiness, whether it's unit readiness, the pillar of high-quality people, modernization of gear, installation sustainment.
Q. What are your first priorities as the 18th SMMC?
A. My top priority is to get to the Pentagon and talk with Gen. Dunford about his planning guidance. And to have a conversation with him, make sure I'm on the same azimuth that he's on. It will be mission first and Marines always. That was my focus here at I MEF, and it will be my focus there as well.
Q. What are the primary challenges the Marine Corps faces now?
A. We've drawn down before. Our challenges are the same challenges we have out there every day. There's an enemy out there, and the enemy gets a vote. Our job is to make sure they don't win the election. There's plenty of business to do out there in the name of freedom and the interests of the United States. We stay focused. We're either in the fight, going to the fight or coming back. That doesn't change for Marines. Us coming out of Afghanistan and going to other places, that's what Marines do. That's why we exist.
Q. As SMMC, how will you stay attuned to the concerns of junior enlisted Marines?
A. By listening to them. I tell everyone, I look through the eyes of the private, the lens of the private every day. We have to stay focused on the young Marines and make sure we're taking care of them. You do that by listening to them, getting out there with them, and allowing them to speak candidly about what they're concerned with.
Q. Any tattoos?
A. No tattoos. But I absolutely love them. Some of them are pretty freaking good.
Q. Do you have a favorite beer or drink of choice?
A. I absolutely will go out and have a couple beers with the Marines around me. I'm not really a drinker or a smoker or a dipper. I don't have a problem with anyone who does it. I just grew up in a society and watched a lot of family members go down that road. I decided not to do it. But I will have a beer or drink of a Marine's choice with them.