Posted By: Robert Geissinger 02-04-12
I joined the Marines in January 1971 on a delay program and entered boot camp at MCRD San Diego on June 30 of that year two-weeks after graduating from high school. I think I always wanted to be a Marine. I always favored military history as a kid, and at about 13 started a book on WWII with a friend who was going to write about the European Theater and I was going to write about the Pacific. I don't thing we got further than maybe the first chapter, but WWII history is full of Marine legends about Wake, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and many more.
I requested to be a Grunt, a ground-pounder, a combat Marine, but after completing boot camp, Infantry Training Regiment at San Onefre, Camp Pendleton, CA, then Basic Infantry Training School also a San Onefre, I was ordered to my first duty-station with the Marine Barracks, 15th Naval District Panama Canal Zone. I served at the barracks from December 1971-June 1973.
We provided security for the various naval installations throughout the canal zone. We had two separate detachments located not far from the Pacific entrance to the canal, and one at Coco Solo, near the Caribbean entrance.
It was exciting to see a foreign country, be part of the history of the United States story with Panama and the canal zone. Most of us may remember the invasion of Panama in 1989, and that we turned the canal back over to the Panamanians in 1999. So, those of us who served with the Marines in Panama are a dying breed.
There were many signs that we were not wanted in Panama. While I was there, the UN Security Council held their first meeting outside of New York in Panama City. It was primarily about the US presence there.
All of our military services were there during my tour. We had about 10,000 Army, 5,000 Air Force, 2,000 Navy, and then 250 Marines.
Our primary duty was to provide security to Naval installations, but we had two other secondary responsibilities. We provided a 14-Marine detail to boarded, and transited the canal in every Warsaw Pact ship that went through the canal. It only happened once during my tour, and unfortunately I was home on emergency leave when the opportunity occurred. We also had a responsibility of reinforcing the Marine embassy guard in Panama City if it became necessary. While that didn't occur during my tour, a group of our Marines did go to Managua, Nicaragua in 1972 after an earthquake there had damaged our embassy there.
I went on to serve with Golf Company, 7th Marines, 1st MarDiv, and HQBN with both the 3rd and 2nd MarDivs. I left the Marines in December of 1979, when as a single father of two young children, left the Corps to a higher calling (Dad).
I have always been, and forever will be proud of my service in the Marines. I have not regretted any single moment of my service in the Corps. My service prepared me for life at so many different levels. I currently supervise several persons and employ many of the leadership principles exampled for me by the Corps. I lead, not manage. I strive continuously to do the right thing, at the right time, and for the right reasons. To see people respond to my direction in a positive and meaningful way is illuminating and rewarding. At 59 years of age, I am able to teach, and model younger professionals who are just starting out in their careers and part of that opportunity stems from the experience I had in the Marines.
Pride, confidence, courage, integrity, and a continued sense of belonging to the Corps exemplifying "once a Marine, always a Marine." Having an almost spiritual connection with any other Marine who served, provided a sense of being a part of something so big, so huge, that only the few, and the proud can understand. A connection with every single Marine who has or will serve. Great stuff, life-changing, momentous stuff.
By the way, my son went on the be a Marine, and wore my dress blues during his tour of service.
Semper Fi to those who have served, are serving, and will serve in the Corps!
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