News: Master gunnery sergeant reflects on 20 year career
Story by Lance Cpl. Kenneth Trotter
IWAKUNI, Japan - There comes a time in one’s career when it’s time to move on. For one station Marine his time has come after 20 years and eight promotions.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Steele, station Installation Personnel Administration Center staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge, hangs up his blouse after an accomplished career in the Corps.
Steele, a 38-year-old Yukon, Okla., native, and diehard Oklahoma Sooners fan, is slated to retire May 18, 2012.
Looking back on his career, Steele originally did not know if he would actually stay in.
“When I first came in, I never saw myself doing this for twenty years,” said Steele. “As a matter of fact, there were two points in my career where I thought about getting out.”
Admiration is one feeling Marines may have when looking at Steele’s rise through the ranks in such a quick fashion. But for Steele, time or age was something he never considered.
“I’ve never looked at it in terms of time or how old I am,” said Steele. “I look at it more as what I’ve done along the way with my accomplishments.”
These accomplishments are more abstract than the usual ones that may come to mind when a man looks back on his career.
“My biggest accomplishment in the Marine Corps was earning the trust and confidence of my leadership, which allowed me the opportunity to get promoted and lead Marines,” said Steele.
A determined work ethic and a strong drive to succeed are but a few of the intangibles a person needs in order to have a long, prosperous career.
Steele has these in spades.
For him, that sense, that drive to be the best at his job and as a Marine comes from small-town values and lessons taught by his father.
“It definitely started back home,” said Steele. “I’m a big believer in the foundation my family laid for me before I came into the Marine Corps. From a very early age, my dad had me working, paying bills, teaching me responsibility and how to be a man.”
His foundation, having been set in place by his father, was reinforced by his experiences within the Corps.
“The Marine Corps culture is very closely related to the environment I grew up in,” said Steele. “My transition to the culture of the Marine Corps was fairly easy for me because the same values the Marine Corps teaches (were) taught to me by family.”
One benefit of having served 20 years is the multitude of Marines under his charge, who have helped him grow as a leader and Marine.
When asked about what he would wish for his legacy to be, Steele remained humble.
“I’d be the wrong person to ask,” said Steele. “The only reason I’m here is the people who’ve gotten me here. It’s partially what I did on my own, but I attribute it to those people in my past. Without them, I would never be the man, or Marine, I am today. Whether it’s one of my young Marines, or Marines at past duty stations, all of them have an equal impact in my life.”
Much like his Marines impacted his life Steele has left similar impressions on many Marines who worked for him.
“As a role model, he is the most amazing Marine I have ever met,” said Staff Sgt. Tressia K. Rakestraw, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron administration chief. “His care and concern for Marines is much like that of a parent for their kids.”
Rakestraw looks up to Steele not only as an administrator, but as a Marine who embodies the total Marine concept.
“He has been a drill instructor, he has done I&I, he has deployed to Iraq,” said Rakestraw. “That, along with his knowledge of administration, has brought him a long way.”
Rakestraw is just one among many Marines here who will miss Steele once he retires.
Steele was a mentor for many and routinely sat on meritorious boards. When not hard at work, he could be found in the hallways giving advice to anyone eager to learn.
“It’s sad to see him go and we will be at a loss once he’s gone,” said Rakestraw. “He is the epitome of a Marine, he’s a Marine’s Marine.”