Thursday, July 30, 2009

Marines hold board

The Marine corporals stood in line, hands behind their backs, in front of the board members at the end of a grueling day of competition. They eagerly listened to the guidance given to them by the senior staff noncommissioned officers who had scrutinized their every move during the meritorious sergeant selection board that took place that day.

This was the second meritorious sergeant selection board held by the battalion in two years, according to Marine 1st Sgt. Johnny L. Perry, company first sergeant, Company A, Headquarters Battalion, Henderson Hall. The competition was open to any Marine assigned to the battalion, including Marines in the National Capital Region, along the East Coast, and even as far away as California.

‘‘If their section recommended the Marine, they went up for the board,” Perry explained.

Marines submitted a package to the company office, complete with endorsements from their work sections. The packages were briefed to the board members as part of the assessment of each individual Marine’s ability.”

The Marines’ day began with a physical fitness test, then a timed, written basic skills test followed by an inspection in their service ‘C’ uniform — all before lunch.

Though Marine Cpl. Hazzell Ramos, distribution management specialist and mother of two, was disappointed that she only completed 86 of the possible 100 crunches in the allotted time during her physical fitness test, she was the second runner to cross the finish line, completing her three-mile run just minutes behind her biggest competitor, Marine Cpl. Christian E. Gilfoy, inbound clerk, Traffic Management Office, Fort Belvoir.

‘‘The most difficult aspect of the board for the Marines was having to endure the vigor of competing all day,” said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Kennetta L. Hamilton, the battalion anti-terrorism chief, and board member.

Only two of the Marines had any previous experience with a battalion selection board. Marine Cpl. Colleen M. Welsh, audits NCO, Consolidated Administration section, Henderson Hall, who cut short her vacation in Boston to compete for sergeant, was meritoriously promoted to corporal during a selection board in April. Ramos was NCO of the Quarter for the first quarter of 2009.

‘‘I wish we had seen the other three Marines on Marine of the Quarter and NCO of the Quarter boards,” Perry said. ‘‘They obviously have the ability. I think it would have helped better prepare them.”

After the uniform inspection and before being released for lunch, the Marines were thrown a curve-ball when they were informed that they should return in their Marine pattern camouflage utility uniform instead of their service uniform for individual interviews. ‘‘Some of them were shocked and said ‘I didn’t know I needed my cammies,’” Perry said. ‘‘But, that’s why we did it. A sergeant would have known to be ready.”

When the Marines were called back in front of the board members and the selection was announced, an unmistakable ‘‘Oo-rah” was heard.

‘‘In the end, Ramos won, and she did so with a great show of bearing,” Hamilton said. ‘‘Her bearing and uniform appearance were the two things in my mind that put her above the rest.”

Ramos, humbled by the selection, had few words to say other than to note the great effort with which her peers had competed. ‘‘Great job, everybody. Really, we all did a great job,” she said.

All of the board members noted their pride in the exceptional performance of all the participants and were glad to select Ramos as the Marine to be promoted.

‘‘All the Marines on the board displayed a high quality of professional development,” said Marine Master Sgt. Julius Spain, battalion adjutant chief and board member. ‘‘However, Cpl. Ramos set herself apart by displaying the highest qualities expected of a Marine sergeant, and for that she is worthy of the rank.”