FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHUKVANI, Afghanistan –A leader is someone capable of setting an example for others to emulate and who strives for excellence. Every Marine is a leader, but one Marine serving with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, stood out among his peers and earned a combat meritorious promotion.
A combat meritorious promotion is a means to recognize a Marine for uncommon valor in a combat environment, said Sgt. Maj. Rafael Rodriguez, sergeant major, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines. It doesn’t mean the Marine is constantly in combat. He can be supporting the combat arms and emit that same valor.
For that to be achieved, the Marine not only must prove to his command he is a leader, he must also prove it to a promotion board of senior Marines.
A combat meritorious promotion awarded at an infantry battalion is typically granted to an infantry platoon sergeant, said Rodriguez, but a non combat-arms Marine was unanimously selected by the most recent board.
Gunnery Sgt. Brent Sheets has been demonstrating his leading capabilities since he joined the Marine Corps and credits his father for setting the example of what a good leader should be.
“My dad is the kind of guy that anyone could look up to,” said Sheets, motor transportation operations chief for 3rd Bn., 7th Marines. “He never would ask someone to do something he wouldn’t do, and he was constantly striving to better himself.”
He said his father taught and raised him to be professional at all times, work hard and always try to better himself.
Sheets added when he was growing up in China Grove, N.C., he always wanted people to say the same thing about him.
Sheets said he was exposed to leaders who have a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality throughout his Marine Corps career. He believes that goes against what his father taught him.
“I never want to be that type of person, and that’s why I do everything with my Marines,” said Sheets. “No matter if it’s working on a vehicle or picking up trash. I’m going to be right beside them.”
Sheets’ Marines noticed his willingness to work alongside them, and you can see that it inspires them to work harder, said Rodriguez.
“He is the best leader I have ever had,” said Cpl. Austin Adams, a mortar transportation operator with the battalion. “Not only is he an amazing leader, but he is a great person.”
Adams, a 22-year-old Karnes City, Texas, native, said he sees Sheets doing things that no other staff noncommissioned officer does.
“I remember seeing him police call with us,” said Adams. “I was thinking, ‘what is he doing?’ Afterward, I realized he doesn’t just talk up a big game, but he would actually do everything we do.”
The way Sheets leads inspired Adams to re-enlist and attempt to become the type of leader that he is.
“I don’t believe that you become a certain rank and you are too good to do the jobs that you did as a junior Marine,” said Sheets. “I think the higher rank you become the more work you should do. If you don’t, your Marines won’t look up to you as the leader they want to emulate.”
Throughout his 13 years in the Marine Corps, Sheets demonstrated time and time again what type of leader he is.
Since he graduated from Marine Combat Training during 2001 and throughout his current combat deployment in Afghanistan, Sheets has been growing as a leader.
Upon graduating Marine Combat Training, Sheets was meritoriously promoted to the rank of lance corporal because he led his platoon during the school.
As a junior Marine, Sheets developed good traits by observing his mentors and supervisors, he said.
“I had so many good leaders teaching me how to improve myself,” said Sheets. “I would be doing them a disservice if I didn’t pass it on to others.”
Another incident where Sheets exhibited his leadership was during his second deployment to Iraq during 2005.
While deployed, then Cpl. Sheets, serving as the platoon sergeant for a motor transportation platoon, faced new adversity. While conducting a logistical resupply mission, Sheets’ vehicle triggered an improvised explosive device. He was wounded by shrapnel to the abdomen and briefly rendered unconscious.
“I remember thinking that I had to get up and get my Marines to safety,” said Sheets.
When Sheets awakened and regained his composure he took command of the situation and moved his Marines to an advantageous position. Then they searched for the insurgent who planted the device.
Sheets safely got his Marines out of the danger zone and back to their forward operating base despite being wounded.
Following that deployment, Sheets continued to lead the platoon as their platoon sergeant and was promoted to sergeant during 2005.
He went on to gain multiple billets and responsibilities such as Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor and combat marksmanship instructor.
Sheets wished to continue bettering himself, so he decided to become a drill instructor.
After a successful tour as a drill instructor and promotion to staff sergeant, Sheets went to his next duty station with Truck Company Bravo, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, where he was entrusted with preparing 45 Marines for a combat deployment to Afghanistan.
The company was attached to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, and deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan during 2012.
Under Sheets’ leadership, his platoon completed more than 60 combat logistics patrols and more than 40 vehicle recovery missions.
Because of his achievements with 1st Bn., 7th Marines, Sheets said he was requested to go on another combat deployment as an attachment to 3rd Bn., 7th Marines where he is currently serving.
From the way Sheets led Marines through his career and all the experience he obtained, he earned multiple awards.
He earned four Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, one with a valor device for his leadership during the IED attack, as well as a combat action ribbon and purple heart.
Sheets said he continues to strive to be the leader his father is.
“My father influenced me more than anyone else,” said Sheets. “I want to be able to influence other Marines to not only be better Marines but better people as a whole.”
His past performances and his continued pursuit for excellence led Sheets to receiving the combat meritorious promotion, said Rodriguez.
He competed against 15 other staff sergeants who all had the necessary requirements for the promotion.
“Sheets has been preforming as a gunnery sergeant since he joined the battalion,” said Rodriguez. “I think he is fully capable of taking on the new responsibilities that come with his rank.”