News: Sergeant major of Cherry Point passes sword, retires after 30 years
Story by Cpl. Tyler J. Bolken
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — The feeling of moving on is felt through the careers of many Marines, whether it’s following a deployment, a change of duty station or perhaps the most rewarding – retirement, in a bittersweet sort of way.
With more than 30 years of active service to his credit, his whole adult life, Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Bailey’s title now reads ‘retired’ after relinquishing his duties as sergeant major of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to Sgt. Maj. Angela M. Maness, April 11.
The culminating relief and appointment and retirement ceremony on the air station parade field capped off a career that had an unlikely beginning.
“I was all signed up for the National Guard,” said Bailey, a native of Salisbury, Md. “I went to swear in, the National Guard officer wasn’t there and they sent me to lunch. I walked out and saw a Marine on the pull-up bars in a pair of those old flimsy red shorts we used to wear, sweaty and everything, coming back from a run. He asked me what I was looking at.
“I said nothing and kept on walking,” Bailey continued. “Now this is a 17-year-old kid in high school, and when I came back from chow, the Marine was standing in his office, which I had to walk past to go down to the National Guard office to swear in.”
The Marine was in his dress blues in front of the mirror and again asked Bailey what he was looking at.
“I went into his office and that was all it took,” said Bailey, of enlisting in December 1981. “I knew right then and have never looked back.”
With uncles and a brother who served in the Army and National Guard, Bailey’s family is no stranger to the military. But it was the Marine recruiter’s opportunistic influence that stuck, and something Bailey wanted to pay forward when he later became a recruiter. It was the most rewarding part of his career, he said.
“I gave a lot of young individuals an opportunity to leave their hometown and do positive things,” said Bailey, who recruited out of Redding, Penn.
“His commitment to helping individuals made him a tremendous mentor to all of the Marines and Sailors on the air station, as well as myself,” said Col. Philip J. Zimmerman, commanding officer of MCAS Cherry Point.
Bailey and Zimmerman worked together for more than a year and a half, and Zimmerman said not one day went by that Bailey wasn’t there for him, the Marines and the air station.
“Taking care of Marines and making sure everybody is treated equally, that’s what I prided my career on the whole time,” said Bailey.
Maness, previously the sergeant major of Combat Logistics Battalion 3 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, said she’s honored to have been selected to follow a Marine with 30 years of commitment.
“I’m looking forward to working with the Marines and the community,” she said, with a motto of keeping it simple. “I can’t wait to get to work.”