View Full Version : Sgt. Maj. makes Marine history

07-17-08, 05:52 AM
Sgt. Maj. makes Marine history
Michael Nerl, Special to The Sun
Article Launched: 07/16/2008 11:29:10 PM PDT

TWENTYNINE PALMS - The Marines and sailors of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center welcomed a new senior enlisted Marine and bid farewell to their previous one at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field.

On July 9, Sgt. Maj. William Johnson Jr., the combat center's sergeant major since 2006, passed the sword of office to Sgt. Maj. Susan M. Bellis, who arrived from Marine Wing Support Group 27 out of Cherry Point, N.C, to take her new post.

Bellis became the first female sergeant major of the sprawling Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The sergeant major is the top enlisted Marine there.

Bellis, a native of Boston, said she was ready and eager to work with the Marines and sailors at the base.

"It matters not what I've done in the past; it's what I will do for these Marines and sailors," said Bellis.

She said it is her personal goal to reach out to everyone at the combat center so they know she is giving her best efforts.

Bellis said it is her privilege and honor to lead the Marines and sailors of the combat center. She pledged she would do her best for every service member under her.

During his career, Johnson, a Georgetown, S.C., native, held numerous and varied positions, ranging from marine security guard, drill instructor and career planner to his final post as the command sergeant major of the combat center.

Johnson, now at the end of his career, said he plans to move to Columbia, S.C., and settle with his wife while continuing his education.

After 30 years, Johnson said that he will miss the Marine Corps as he goes about his plans for retirement. He also said he will miss the friendship of his fellow Marines and the challenges in the Marine Corps.

"The younger Marines challenge you - that is the best part of leading them," said Johnson.

"You never know what blessings you will be to someone, or what someone will be to you," added Johnson during his comments at the ceremony.

Brig. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus, Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and combat center commanding general, also played a role in the morning's relief and appointment and gave thanks to the sergeant major and his wife, Daisy, for her show of support throughout her husband's 30-year career.

"Thousands of Marines after serving 30 years have benefitted from his love and friendship," said Gurganus, a native of Wilmington, N.C.

Gurganus also said Johnson will be missed for his companionship and leadership.

"You can't have a better counselor or friend," Gurganus said to the crowd. "That's what I got from Sgt. Maj. Johnson."

Gurganus also spoke about Johnson's influence on the Marine Corps itself during his time in the service.

"You have made a difference because you were part of it, and the Marine Corps is better because of it," Gurganus said.

He mentioned Johnson's contribution to building a better relationship between the combat center and the community with his friendly attitude.

Michael Nerl is a private stationed at the Marine Ground Combat Training Center in Twentynine Palms.