View Full Version : Well-traveled path for Coleman

12-26-03, 11:39 AM
Well-traveled path for Coleman
December 26,2003

To say Brig. Gen Ronald Coleman hit the ground running when he assumed command of Camp Lejeune's 2nd Force Service Support Group in June would be an understatement.

All Coleman had to do was assume command of a unit far from home and in the middle of one of the largest logistical operations in Marine Corps history.

Some of the first local troops to leave for Kuwait in the Operation Iraqi Freedom buildup were members of the 2nd FSSG under Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert in December 2002 and January 2003. They built Camp Fox up from bare sand into a 50-square-kilometer logistical complex.

It was first called the Marine Corps Logistics Command during the war, but later became a special purpose Marine air-ground task force, a unit with air, ground, support and command elements designed for a specific purpose.

"If you're going to take command of a unit, you want to do it while deployed to a combat area," the 55-year-old Coleman said. "One of the things I'm most proud of is how the special purpose MAGTF reconstituted."

But when Coleman left Marine Corps headquarters and arrived in the country this summer, there was the difficult job of repairing weapons and equipment and reloading the 11 maritime prepositioning force ships from two squadrons, one from the Indian Ocean and one from the Mediterranean Sea.

The daytime highs averaged between 110 and 112 degrees, with a peak high of 117.5 while they were there.

But deep in the bowels of the massive cargo ships, mechanics, drivers and embarkation specialists squeezed through some areas with only 18 inches of clearance between tanks and bulkheads, facing temperatures between 125 and 150 degrees.

"The Marines literally had to put on gloves so they wouldn't be burned from the hot tools," Coleman said. "I can't imagine anything topping the feeling of pride I have for those Marines and sailors."

Staff NCOs vital

The Marine Corps has the lowest officers-to-enlisted personnel ratio, so Coleman gives a great deal of authority to his staff noncommissioned officers, the four senior enlisted pay grades.

"(The colonels) always trusted their SNCOs, and if we get out of their way, there isn't a mission they can't complete," Coleman said. "Most of the other services are amazed how we empower our Marines. They will almost always accomplish the mission."

But it was his grandmother who taught him early family lessons and how to take care of people, a mission most Marine leaders take seriously.

"Maye Hill was the finest person to walk the face of the earth," Coleman said. "Everything I needed in life, she taught me. She taught me to treat everybody with respect."

Coleman comes from a family of eight children and was two years ahead of his wife, Jane, who is his high school sweetheart.

He went to college for a year and then was ordered to Vietnam. They were married on a Saturday in October 1969, and he left for war the following Monday.

After serving in Vietnam, he returned to the U.S. and went back to school.

"It's amazing what a year in Vietnam can do for your studies," Coleman said.

This is Coleman's fifth tour of duty at Camp Lejeune. He served with the 2nd Marine Regiment in the early 1970s, and in the 1990s, he was commander of 2nd Maintenance Battalion and 2nd Supply Battalion and the logistics officer for the 2nd Marine Division.

"Camp Lejeune is my favorite base," Coleman said. "If they said we could go anywhere, this would be the place. I can't imagine the military and civilian communities getting together so well. It's a 180 from 1975."

The Colemans have five daughters; Susan, 33, who is a nurse; 30-year old twins Chrissy and Jenni, who are both high school teachers in Prince William County, Va.; 18-year old Katie, who is a college freshman in northern Virginia and 17-year old Stephanie, who is a junior at Forest Park High School in Virginia.

Contact Eric Steinkopff at estein kopff@jdnews.com or 353-1171, Ext. 236.


John Althouse/Daily News
Familiar territory: Brig. Gen. Ronald Coleman with 2nd FSSG says nothing tops the pride he has for his Marines and sailors.