MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
He stands out from a massive cluster of Marines in green-on-green physical training gear. But it is more than the fact he is the only one wearing his coyote brown Flak jacket over his PT gear. He stands at 6 feet tall with a hefty build, thick neck and white strip through his salt-and-pepper hair. No tattoos can be seen on his arms, but a raised scar on his right jaw speaks louder about his experiences than any ink could. His baritone voice is the only exterior trait that is rougher than his bone-deep tan.
Master Gunnery Sgt. Kelly J. Scanlon, who was the director of the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy aboard the Combat Center for three years, supervised his final Sergeant’s Course from April 14 to May 30 before moving on to his new duties in Quantico, Va., as deputy director of Enlisted Professional Military Education for the entire Marine Corps.
His new billet has put him in charge of the development and evolution of all enlisted professional military education and six staff noncommissioned officer academies around the world.
Master Sgt. Scott R. Peterson, new director of the Combat Center SNCO Academy, said Scanlon has had the greatest impact on him of all staff NCOs he has ever worked with.
“He’s the type of leader who talks the talk and walks the walk 365 days a year,” he said.
Peterson, a Chicago native, said he has worked with Scanlon for two years and has always been impressed with his “leadership by example” when he does things like finishing a run with the last Marine in.
Students have also been influenced no less than his staff.
Sergeants Damian Chacon and Rafael Chacon, brothers from Los Angeles in the course, said his leadership has inspired them to be the finest NCOs they can be.
“He has demanded the type of leadership I try to apply every day,” said Rafael, a drill instructor for 1st Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. “He is still holding the standard as a senior enlisted staff NCO.”
Damian, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, agreed, saying he believes Scanlon’s motivation is the primary reason Marines come out of the course “hard-charging.”
“You can tell just by the product he puts out,” said Damian. “You see some senior enlisted staff NCOs who are really relaxed. But he demands nothing but perfection from his sergeants.”
Scanlon said he achieves great satisfaction doing what he does and intends to get the same results from Marines in Quantico as he did here.
“I’ve had the greatest job in the Marine Corps,” he said. “I’ve had the ability to come into work every day and lead, train and mentor over 1,000 Marine sergeants. I have learned as much from them as they have from me.”
Scanlon attributes the high quality of Marines who have graduated from the course to his staff.
“They run the place,” he said. “I’ve got a highly professional staff. They’re highly qualified, very demanding and every one of them is outstanding mentors to the students.”
Staff and students alike claim they will always remember his impact on their lives.
“I’d like to thank that man for the rest of my days for setting the example I will always look to for every situation,” said Peterson. “I’ve never had a more dedicated, firm and fair leader than this man.”
Since Scanlon is 28 years deep in his 30-year enlistment, he has already made plans for retirement.
He is married, has a 21-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, and plans on moving back to Minneapolis where his family resides.
If he could offer words of advice to NCOs everywhere, especially to his students, Scanlon would say, set the ultimate standard.
“Lead by example, and your Marine’s performance and conduct will reflect an image of you,” said Scanlon.
In the case of the Corps’ newest PME developer, the reflection of Marines around the world will soon have the shadow of a six-foot Marine wearing a coyote-brown flack jacket staring back at them.