News Icon

News: Passing on the NCO sword: MCB Hawaii Sgt. Maj. says goodbye after final tour, 30 years of service

Story by Cpl. Reece LodderSmall RSS IconSubscriptions Icon

Passing on the NCO sword: MCB Hawaii Sgt. Maj. says goodbye after final tour, 30 years of service Sgt. Reece Lodder

Marking the culmination of 30 years of service and his time on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Sgt. Maj. James W. Sutton, outgoing base sergeant major, passed the Marine noncommissioned officer sword to incoming Sgt. Maj. Robert E. Eriksson in a post and relief and retirement ceremony at Dewey Square on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 8, 2011. "The opportunity to serve on active duty, for any Marine, is a finite amount of time, whether its four years or 30 years," Sutton said. "You take care of your Marines, accomplish the mission and do your job to the best of your ability through the opportunities you have. When it's time to step aside, you turn it over to your Marines and sailors with the faith and confidence that they'll continue in the fine traditions the Marine Corps has upheld for 235 years."

Marking the culmination of 30 years of service and the conclusion of his time at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Sgt. Maj. James W. Sutton, outgoing base sergeant major, passed this NCO sword to Sgt. Maj. Robert E. Eriksson in a post and relief and retirement ceremony at Dewey Square on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 8, 2011.

Mounted on a nearly bare wall in the base sergeant major’s office, a lone item remained among a slew of nails and screws, now mere remnants of the mementos they used to hold. The retiring leader had cleared out his belongings, leaving only a wooden plaque marked with the inscription ‘Sergeant Major,’ and displaying a Marine non-commissioned officers’ sword.

Marking the culmination of 30 years of service and the conclusion of his time at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Sgt. Maj. James W. Sutton, outgoing base sergeant major, passed this NCO sword to Sgt. Maj. Robert E. Eriksson in a post and relief and retirement ceremony at Dewey Square on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, April 8, 2011.

Beside the occasional phone call, Sutton’s office is quiet. The contemplative Marine sits comfortably on a burgundy leather couch, his folded hands and kind eyes revealing thoughtfulness and humility polished over years of experience.

At the end of three decades of taking it “one tour at a time,” Sutton said it was his turn to pass the mission on to the next generation of leaders.

“The opportunity to serve on active duty, for any Marine, is a finite amount of time, whether its four years or 30 years,” Sutton said. “You take care of your Marines, accomplish the mission and do your job to the best of your ability through the opportunities you have. When it’s time to step aside, you turn it over to your Marines and sailors with the faith and confidence that they’ll continue in the fine traditions the Marine Corps has upheld for 235 years.”

Sutton, who was decorated with a Legion of Merit Medal during the ceremony, was heralded by base chief of staff Christopher Blanchard for having an “impact that reaches far beyond the confines of the base” during his three years at MCB Hawaii.

“I wish Sgt. Maj. Sutton had been my sergeant major while I was on active duty,” said Blanchard, a retired Marine colonel. “He is a thinking kind of sergeant major who is focused on getting the job done, giving the commander his best advice and influencing policy decisions he thinks are in the best interest of our Marines. He has raised my expectations on what a senior enlisted leader should provide a commander, and is the gold standard of sergeants major.”

Raised in Texas as the son of an Army combat engineer who served during the Korean War, Sutton entered the Marine Corps in 1981 and completed recruit training before earning his military occupational specialty as an amphibious assault vehicle crewman.

Shining among his peers and earning meritorious promotions to both corporal and sergeant, Sutton was stationed at U.S. embassies around the world as a Marine Security Guard, and earned a meritorious promotion to staff sergeant during that tour.

While functioning in a variety of billets as his career progressed, Sutton remained largely involved with AAVs until he filled assignments as the recruiting station sergeant major for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and did two tours as a senior leader with East Coast-based Marine helicopter squadrons.

Following his next assignment as the Marine Aircraft Group 31 sergeant major at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., Sutton arrived at MCB Hawaii in June 2008, and immediately began working with those under his charge.

“What always stood out was his intellect, level headedness and depth of knowledge on all the issues,” said retired Col. Robert Rice, former base commanding officer. “He thought outside the box, and his global perspective stretched beyond the Marine Corps to how the base fit within the local community outside our gates.”

Sutton engaged himself in decisions affecting each aspect of the base community, whether in plans for housing, barracks renovation and construction, safety programs, improving training areas, aiding the commander in implementing energy and environmental policies, helping bring Starbucks and GameStop stores to Mokapu Mall, or building Marine Corps Community Service’s Single Marine and Sailor Program.

“Sgt. Maj. Sutton was always working for young Marines,” Rice said. “We both recognized that we couldn’t create Marines in our own mold. We had to learn to understand how young Marines are living, what their pressures are, and how to relate in their world. He helped bridge the generation gap and adapt our programs, processes and resources to meet the needs of today’s Marines, while still holding onto Marine Corps traditions and completing our mission.”

Sutton acknowledged the challenge in managing the expectations of the base’s units, Marines, sailors and their families using the installation’s capabilities and assets, but said the highlight of his tour was working to improve the quality of life of Marines and their families.

“If it had to do with the quality of life of Marines, he was engaged,” said Blanchard. “He was genuinely concerned about the welfare of every Marine, sailor and family member on this base. There was no problem too big, nor any problem too small, that he didn’t take an interest in.”

Upon passing responsibilities to his successor, Sutton will leave Hawaii to settle with his family in western North Carolina, where he will pursue further opportunities in retired life.

“I’m honored and humbled by the Marines and sailors I’ve been able to work with,” Sutton said. “I’ve learned that you have to keep your mind open to all Marines, regardless of rank. There is an opportunity to learn from each of them, since they all bring their motivations, abilities and intellects to contribute to the mission. I’ll miss the daily interaction with the fine young men and women that have answered the call and stepped up to defend our nation.”

As he reminisced about his past and mused about the future, Sutton’s tone remained pensive, only to be broken as he paused and flashed a spirited grin. Though said jokingly, his words revealed an undaunted dedication 30 years in the making.

“My hometown is Marine Corps Base Hawaii until the 8th of April,” said Sutton, cracking a grin. “After that, I’ll find a new home.”


Connected Media
ImagesPassing on the NCO...
Marking the culmination of 30 years of service and his...


Web Views
385
Downloads
0

Podcast Hits
0



Public Domain Mark
This work, Passing on the NCO sword: MCB Hawaii Sgt. Maj. says goodbye after final tour, 30 years of service, by Sgt Reece Lodder, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:04.08.2011

Date Posted:04.08.2011 16:10

Location:MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, HI, USGlobe

Options

  • Army
  • Marines
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • Coast Guard
  • National Guard

HOLIDAY GREETINGS

SELECT A HOLIDAY:

VIDEO ON DEMAND

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
  • Flickr