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Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
Photo Information

Mark Geletko, retired Marine Corps Sergeants Major, grew up in housing projects surrounded by a large family presence. He developed a strong passion for sports and physical activities at a young age which followed him into his adult years. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jennessa Davey)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jennessa Davey

What I've Learned: Mark Geletko

22 Mar 2018 | Lance Cpl. Jennessa Davey Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

> I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Penn., where I lived in a housing project in a large family setting. I had more than 50 cousins and other extended family members as my neighbors. I enjoyed having family around all the time because there was always something to do, or someone to play sports with.

> It was normal for us to play sports, so that’s what we all did. I played football, ice hockey and baseball throughout high school.

> After high school, I started boxing and working at a steel mill, where I worked for three and a half years. I got laid off so I decided to go to college at Allegheny Junior College I Pennsylvania. I went to college for almost two years and played baseball and drove a truck part time.

> In 1983 I realized my life wasn’t really going anywhere so told my family I was thinking about the service, they automatically wanted me to join the Marine Corps. I decided to enlist into the United States Marine Corps when I was 23 as an 0311.

> My first duty station was in Okinawa, Japan. In those 2 years, I went on deployments in Korea, Guam and the Philippines. It was mind bending to be so far away from home and in an exotic environment. Around this time, I began training in other martial arts forms, like kick boxing and Muay Thai, and continued to box at an amateur level. I also became heavily involved in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Programs in its various forms.

> My second duty station was [Marine Corps Base] Camp Lejeune, N.C., at 2nd Marines Battalion. During my time there, I went on a Mediterranean/Marine Expeditionary Unit float through the Middle East and Europe in 1986. I met my wife, Anita, while we were both stationed in North Carolina. We got married in 1989 and a year later had my first son, Joseph.

> After being in Camp Lejeune, I was promoted to Sergeant. I got orders to be a Primary Marksmanship Instructor on [Marine Corps Recruit Depot] Parris Island, S.C., where I coached Maries at the rifle range.

> During my time at Parris Island, I made a lot of friends who convinced me to get my B billet out of the way and get on the drill field. Being a drill instructor is a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally. I did really well on the drill field and was meritoriously promoted to Staff Sergeant.

> After serving my 2 year tour as a drill instructor, I got orders to [Marine Corps Base] Camp Pendleton, Calif., where I deployed with a Marine Expeditionary Unit to the Western Pacific, Korea, Guam, Indonesia, the Philippines and Okinawa. I spent my last two years working at the Camp Pendleton brig as the Duty Warden. It was interesting because I got to see the underbelly of the Marine Corps.

> In 1993 my second son, Daniel, was born. Soon after, I was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant and got orders to [Marine Corps Base] Quantico, Virginia. I spent the beginning of my tour in Virginia working at the Security Battalion as a training chief. I later got the opportunity to be a senior drill instructor for the Officer Candidate School in the summer. I was retained at OCS as permanent party and became the Company Gunnery Sergeant for Charlie Company.

> After being there for 3 years, I got promoted to First Sergeant and got orders to Twentynine Palms, Calif. I arrived in the fall of 2001 and started off as 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Fox Company’s First Sergeant. I went on a Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa with them and two deployments to Iraq.

> I was almost sent out to Iraq again, but instead I was sent over to be the First Sergeant at Marines Corps Communication-Electronics School for six months before I picked up Sergeant Major. It was very different going from grunt life to working with students, but my background as a drill instructor came in handy.

> In 2004, I was moved over to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, 7th Marine Regiment, as their Sergeant Major, where I deployed to Iraq for 10 months. This deployment was interesting because our battalion covered a large area of Western Iraq, and had a lot of contact with insurgent forces. Our Marines patrolled frequently, and worked harder than any unit I had been stationed with in the past. They were the best young men I have ever had the pleasure of serving with.

> When I got back to Twentynine Palms, Headquarters Marine Corps attempted to give me orders to recruiting duty, but I opted to stay and move to Headquarters Battalion as the Sergeant Major. During this time, I was able to finish my degree in Organizational Management from Ashford University.

> After 27 years in the Marine Corps, I decided to retire. My family was doing well here so we stayed and I got a job on base with the Advisor Training Group in Camp Wilson, where I helped train teams to go to Afghanistan and train Afghan Police. I worked there for 3 years until the program was shut down. I’ve now been working as contractor out of 7th Marine Regiment as a PreDeployment coordinator for the past 4 years.

> In 2007, after the last Iraq deployment, I was able to help start Fight Club 29/Marine Mixed Martial Arts Team here at the Combat Center. My active duty fighters compete in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, submission grappling and mixed martial arts competitions all over the southwest United States.

> Our team has multiple championships and has placed two fighters in the UFC and one in Bellator, after their service in the Corps. Our team also trains women in boxing and Muay Thai for self defense, and regularly gives self defense classes to spouses and dependents here at the Combat Center. The team has been my passion the last ten years and as a life time martial artist, I am blessed to be able to give back to the installation’s community.

> I’ve been blessed in my career, with little injuries and having the opportunity to see all aspects of the Marine Corps. It has helped me get where I am today. I enjoy what I do now and I am looking to start my Masters Degree program in Organizational Leadership at Azusa Pacific University this July. I hope someday to be able to teach at the University level.

> Some of the wisdom that has inspired me throughout my career is from Hebrews 12:11, which says “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

> Another quote that I live by is from Ghengis Khan 1207 “There’s two types of pain, the temporary pain of discipline or the permanent pain of regret” These quotes speak to me because you have to be disciplined in your life and training to reap the rewards.
Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms