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"The best LtCol I ever worked for… " Topic

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3,085 hits since 29 Apr 2010
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Mardaddy Inactive Member29 Apr 2010 3:29 p.m. PST

…is the only one that ever fired me. And gave me my only Adverse Fitness Report.

What a way to open up, eh?

At the time, I was a Sgt serving with 1st CEB, 1st MarDiv. It was after Desert Shield/Storm and I was the Career Planner ("reenlistment NCO," for those that need clarification.)

Was the relief warranted? Phrase it this way, "Does a Battalion Commander have the right to relieve anyone in his battalion that does not perform their duties up to his level of expectation?"

The obvious answer, "Without question."

But there is a bit of a caveat… You see, just like Recruiters have a "mission" to make regarding how many recruits they bring in each month, Career Planners also have a "mission" of reenlisting a certain number of Marines per month. This "mission" is assigned by higher headquarters (1st MarDiv in my case.)

I never failed to make mission, and received multiple written commendations from 1stMarDiv for consistently meeting that mission throughout the two years I was the Career Planner there. BUT – while I met the higher headquarters expectation, I failed to meet LtCol Holmquist's expectation, which was almost double my assigned "mission."

He determined that I was failing to meet his perfomance requirments, and wanted a replacement that would. The way things work in the USMC, I could not be relieved and replaced without an adverse fitness report citing I was failing in my primary duties (for which I had multiple awards for accomplishing.)

Needless to say, I filed my own paperwork rebutting the bad marks, this was still at a time where a single bad Fitness Report is all but guaranteed to be a promotion-killer and therefore (since I was only a Sgt) a career-ender.

There is no final resolution you get when you do a rebuttal like that. You never know if your comments/evidence carry any meaning to anyone viewing your record, all you can do is submit it and cross your fingers.

I did not and still do not hold a grudge against him. All things considered, he was the best Battalion CO I ever worked for. I met mission, but could not meet his expectations, and it is his right and privilege to relieve me if he wants, just as I am allowed to rebut with my facts and evidence.

I can look beyond what happened to ME, personally, and see what he did in training up junior NCO's, Staff NCO's, junior officers, and how he affected unit combat readiness as a whole.

Mardaddy Inactive Member29 Apr 2010 3:35 p.m. PST


Like expected, I was passed over for promotion to SSgt when I hit the eligibility zone. I was on deployment with 3/1 at the time, and I figured that was it, done, start looking elsewhere, I only have until the end of this enlistment (18 more months) and I hit term limits for a Sgt.

You only really get one shot in the eligibility zone, after that, next year you are in the "above zone," and hardly anyone at all is ever promoted from there; I'd never met anyone that was promoted out of the above zone, they tap in there only after they run out of those in the eligibility zone and still have not promoted enough to meet projected quota.

When I saw that promotion message that let me know I was passed over, within a week I received a notice in the mail (a form-letter) from the SgtMaj of the Marine Corps notifying me that I was placed on the, "Substandard Performance Review Board."

THAT Bleeped texted me off.

The letter stated that since I "earned" a bad fitness report, they were administratively obligated to place me on the board (though it was a formality and carried no actual repercussions.)

I got MAD, "Fine, they want to call me substandard, screw them, when they kick me out they'll find they got rid of the best damn sergeant they ever had." I went balls-to-the-wall on that deployment and after to live up to being the best damn Sgt in my unit, hands down.

Within a month I was filling a job title two ranks above my own (more good fortune than by design), and at the end of deployment was the only "supply guy" awarded a Navy Achievement Medal. After we got back and I received transfer orders, the SgtMaj, XO and BnCo called me in to their offices to thank me personally and individually for the things I did to make the deployment a success (did I mention that it was a deployment to Somalia, the *LAST* USMC deployment there, where we collapsed the UN lines and withdrew everyone out? – again, more good fortune than by design.) Stellar FitReps followed as well, ranked #1 among peers on multiple reports.

I was promoted out of the "above zone" after all the following year. The way it worked back then anyways, if you are promoted once after an adverse FitRep, you are considered to have put it behind you and it is no longer really held against you anymore.

I knew there are others out there, but to this day I am the only Marine I know of that was promoted out of the above zone.

Maybe that kick in the pants of the relief/fitrep/"Substandard Board" notification was exactly what I needed, when I needed it to jolt me out of doing a good job as a Marine and striving to do a GREAT job instead…

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian29 Apr 2010 7:36 p.m. PST

Taking a lemon and making lemonade, I believe they call that. grin

quidveritas Inactive Member29 Apr 2010 7:58 p.m. PST

I know nothing about the USMC but . . .

I do know that, in the Army, a unit commander may not make demands that exceed the requirements of certain regulations. I've had a couple set-to's over the years. Was even court marshaled once (court marshal was never completed -- they adjourned it and never reconvened -- I was dead right and they knew it). These incidents do little to endear you to the service. In the end it's their loss.

As for the 'best' LTC . . . NOT. This guy is trying to aggrandize himself by taking credit for the efforts of the people that work for him. Of course he may be a motivator totally concerned with the mission but it don't sound like that is the case here.

He probably got his after you left. I doubt he could find someone any better than yourself. Subtraction by addition.


cfuzwuz Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2010 9:07 p.m. PST

From what I understand from your story, if a SGT does not keep getting promoted in his eligibility period then he is term limited out! Is this true? Have the Marines never heard of the Peter Principle? What if a guy is a fantastic E5( say in a combat unit) but is not a hard charger,type A personality and really likes where he is at. It does not seem to make much sense to get rid of these guys! If they joined when they were 20 they should be able pull their own weight till they are 40 or 45.

Mardaddy Inactive Member29 Apr 2010 10:35 p.m. PST

quid, I never really got into the things he did that WERE good and beneficial, so by omission of those details, yea, I can see where you would disagree.

cfuz, By default with the military it is, "move up or move out." There are service limitations for each rank/grade in the service. Each branch has their own manner of determining them. In the USMC, a Sgt (E5) cannot serve past 13 years. SSgt (E6) not past 20, GySgt (E7) not past 23. Up or OUT, baby.

Not sure if Army & USAF is different, but I know the Navy was; you could retire at 20 years a 2nd Class PO (E5) in the Navy.

Mardaddy Inactive Member29 Apr 2010 11:04 p.m. PST

For the benefit of quidveritas, this CO made it clear early on that he felt junior officers know nothing, and are to follow hints and training from their Staff NCO's. He told the Staff NCO's that if and when their junior officers screw up, he's coming to see THEM, not the butter-bars.

He tripled the amount of field training the Battalion went on, and doubled the number of CAX's at 29 Palms.

He would walk around the Bn area alone on occassion, asking junior Marines random questions about various Bn events to see if the word was reaching down to the lowest level, and would stop Cpl's and Sgt's and ask them about their charges; how many Marines are they in charge of, what are their names, how many are married, on light duty, or leave, do they have a squad book that they maintain with all relevant information on their Marines in case of troubles, etc.

He started the Bn on a hump regimen and got training slots for the CQB facility, special schools and the advanced Fire Table exercises with the local Artillery Regiment (realize this is a Combat Engineer Battalion, he wanted all to be just as capable as Infantry are.)

Something to note, when he was at the Staff College before being assigned to 1stCEB, he broke his back falling out of a tree while bow-hunting. Recovered, finished Staff College, and while with us, he made every hump and ran with the Companies and on Battalion runs despite the obvious (to everyone) pain he was in.

He challenged junior Marines on occasion with 1stCEB and 1stMarDiv-specific history questions and granted instant 72hr passes to those who had the correct answers, encouraging Marines to "own" their unit by studying about its past, its roots and combat history.

The previous BnCmdr was very hands off, this new one made it clear that he was going to micro-manage at first, and as the platoon leaders and shop chiefs displayed they knew what they were doing he would back off, but that he had to get into their business first to know where the battalion stood. Things were testy for about two months, but like he said, he backed off.

Since I was considered part of Special Staff and was present for Staff meetings, I was able to see the stats of how things were before, and how combat readiness stats and training capabilities upticked a little at first, then a lot.

Mardaddy Inactive Member29 Apr 2010 11:13 p.m. PST

BTW, Col Holmquist retired in 1998.

I had met and had dealings with his son around 2000, I believe he was a Captain at the time with 7th Engineer Support Battalion.

I heard unconfirmed rumor that the last USMC event Col Holmquist was well enough to make before succumbing to throat cancer in 2003 was the Change of Command ceremony for his son taking over as Bn CO of 1stCEB.

pmwalt Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2010 2:10 p.m. PST

I was in the Corps for my 20 and him canning you (and the bad FITREP) for not making "his" mission quotas doesn't sit well. In a way though, it made the job of the BCNR's job easier in pulling the FITREP, which evidently helped you picking up SSgt. Sounds like a good CO who made a bad call on your part. Glad things worked out. Semper fi.

cfuzwuz Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2010 6:54 p.m. PST

Mardaddy. that explains a lot. I just kind of wonder how many E-5 Marines fought in WW2 with more than 13 years in service or E-6s with more than 20 years. The movie streotype is that every unit had a crusty, old sgt who had been around forever.

Mardaddy Inactive Member01 May 2010 9:17 a.m. PST

cfuzwuz, ahhh, but you see wartime is different. You learn pretty quick that in, "the best interests of the Marines Corps," all previous rules or commitments can be canceled or suspended.

In Desert Shield/Storm, a blanket message from HQMC was sent notifying that all Marine's EAS (End of Active Service, basically your discharge date) are suspended, regardless of service limitation for rank. So, no one was being discharged until after the whole mess was over.

And the whole service limitations for rank, up or out policies have not been around forever, would not surprise me at all to find out that it is a recent thing added maybe after Korea or even Vietnam to prevent stagnation and complacency at all levels.

A Boston Terrier Inactive Member15 Feb 2011 3:28 p.m. PST

The best Lt Col I worked for….. Was the one that left my company the hell alone….

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