News: Sgt. Maj. Kent spends final days of farewell tour with Marines in Afghanistan
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - There is a certain presence around the Marine who has led hundreds of thousands of men and women throughout the past 35 years. His voice commands attention, his demeanor demands respect and his words instill unconditional pride. His smile, though fleeting, bolsters confidence, while his devil dog glare can freeze hell.
Ask a man like Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, sergeant major of the Marine Corps since 2007, how he came to be so confident, so influential, so proud, and the response will be simple. He has a 235-year legacy to fulfill. He has an eagle, globe and anchor “permanently branded” on his heart.
“That’s my proudest moment, earning the title and that eagle, globe and anchor,” stated Kent, of Memphis, Tenn.
As a leader of Marines, Kent has had the opportunity to make some influential decisions and major changes within the Marine Corps, but he does not take credit for any of it.
“Me personally, I wouldn’t say that I’ve done anything to change the Marine Corps,” Kent humbly said. “I have provided top cover to assist in changing the Marine Corps, but this is all about a team effort. Not one individual can change the Marine Corps.”
In fact, he is quick to pass the credit largely to forward-deployed Marines.
“Matter of fact, it is you all out here [in Afghanistan] each and every day that’s going to change the Marine Corps,” Kent stated.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and Kent spent their time in Afghanistan as part of Kent’s farewell tour, traveling and visiting Marines from different units at multiple outpost, May 11-15. During their addresses to the Marines on Camp Leatherneck, the two highlighted the positive changes and growth they have seen in Afghanistan.
When asked specifically what improvements Kent had seen, he spoke of various towns and areas.
“Positive encouragement is what the commandant and I see as we travel around,” Kent said with conviction. “The Afghan people feel more confident that Marines are in the towns and they are going to take care of them.
“I can tell you right now, Marines see that [positive feedback]. The ones that are out there every day have seen the positive change. That’s not the senior Marines telling us, it’s the junior Marines that tell us that things are turning around…you know that junior Marines never b.s. anybody and they’re pretty straight-forward.”
Kent had some positive encouragement of his own for the Marines currently deployed in Afghanistan.
“I tell them to keep doing what they are doing because they are truly living up to the great legacy of the Corps,” Kent said. “[They are] leaving a great legacy for those Marines coming after [them].”
It is the Corps’ longstanding, rich legacy that Kent says, in large part, sets Marines apart. He also says Marines are the only servicemembers who identify with their respective branch before identifying with their military occupational specialty or unit.
“You walk up and ask any Marine, regardless of MOS, ‘What are you?’ and the first thing out of their mouth would not be ‘I am a grunt, I am public affairs, I am motor-transport, or I am military police’.” Kent started. “What would be the first thing out of a Marine’s mouth? ‘I am a United States Marine.’ And that sets us apart from everybody else.”
This pride that Kent speaks of every Marine having is especially evident when he talks about his own personal career. His humility carries over into every answer he gives, every piece of advice he provides and every memory he recalls.
Despite holding the highest enlisted billet in the Marine Corps for the last four years, Kent does not embellish or exaggerate his experiences. He firmly believes that Marines as a whole, not individually, contribute to the positive changes and unwavering dedication to duty.
“I have assisted Marines in continuing the great legacy of the Marine Corps…you all are creating legacy by being over here doing the great things you do, so I would not say that I have created any legacy [myself],” Kent said.
He advises Marines, whether doing one enlistment or multiple, that that legacy will carry on if they continue doing a few simple things.
“I think every Marine needs to challenge themselves,” Kent said. “If you are not challenging yourself as a Marine, then something is wrong.”
Above all, Kent says Marines need to continue to take care of one another and do the right thing, and with Marines doing those things that are already ingrained in them from a ‘young age’, “the future of the Corps is great.”
With his retirement drawing near, Kent was asked what he is most looking forward to.
“I just want to take it easy with my family, my wife and our daughters, and just enjoy life for a little short period of time,” Kent said. “I know my wife is probably going to get bored with me at the house so she will probably have a honey-do list, so I will be working hard although I will be in retirement,” he added with a small chuckle.
“What I really want to do is run a triathlon…because of the travel schedule I was not able to train up [to one],” Kent concluded.
He plans to run his first triathlon with a fellow Marine in the next 10 months, proving that, even in retirement, Marines still set their standards high.
His concluding thoughts on his 35 year career in the Marine Corps centered around his family, his biggest supporters: his wife, Liz, and their two daughters. “I just want to thank them for all the sacrifice, all the long deployments. I cannot tell you how much I thank them for all of their support.”
Date Posted:05.17.2011 23:42
Location:CAMP LEATHERNECK, AF
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