MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Parks received a Bronze Star Medal Feb. 11, at the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion’s light armored vehicle ramp, the prior to relinquishing his post as battalion sergeant major to Sgt. Maj. John J. Elliot during a post and relief Ceremony, Feb. 12, at Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field.
After Parks was awarded a Bronze Star, he turned and addressed his Marines. Parks told them he did not deserve the medal. The rightful beneficiaries of the medal were his Marines and sailors whose work ethic and never-ending motivation to complete the job that made him look good.
“I don’t know what to say – I am humbled. I shouldn’t have received this medal – it should have gone to my Marines,” said Parks, an El Paso, Texas native.
Lt. Col. Kenneth Kassner, the battalion’s commanding officer, said Parks went above and beyond his duties as a sergeant major during their last deployment to Iraq.
“He distinguished himself in a combat environment, and conducted a number of mounted and dismounted patrols through known and suspected enemy areas,” said Kassner, a Coupland, Texas native. “He and I would regularly travel the battle space, visiting Marines and local people to discuss their needs and help deny any passive support to the enemy. Most importantly, Sgt. Maj. Parks deserves this medal because of his combat leadership skills, his mentoring and his love for his Marines.
“He always ensured the Marines were doing the right thing,” Kassner said. “He possesses a lead-from-the-front mentality, and it has been my honor to serve with him.”
Maj. William Speigle, the executive officer for the battalion, said Parks had a close connection to his Marines, viewing them as his family, and even coined a call for them. Instead of “Oorah,” he would call out “Chaaaa!” and his Marines would always respond louder – just for him.
During the post and relief ceremony, Kassner said he was sad to see Parks leave the battalion, but is excited to be working with Sgt. Maj. John J. Elliot, the new battalion sergeant major.
“I am looking forward to seeing what Sgt. Maj. Elliot has to bring to the table,” Kassner said. “I have heard a lot of good things about him and I know he is a good choice for our battalion.”
Elliot enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1987 and served as a Marine Security Guard until 1992. Since then, he has served with 2nd Light Armored Infantry Battalion; 2nd Recruit Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C.; 4th Marine Regiment; 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion; 1st Bn., 6th Marines; and Marine Wing Support Squadron 374.
He deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, and Operation Provide Comfort in Haiti in 2004. He deployed for OIF again in 2005.
Elliot said he looked forward to working with his new battalion, knowing any Marines Parks had served with would be good Marines.
“It is an honor to be able to serve with this battalion,” Elliot said. “I have heard many good things, and I look forward to proving them all right.”
After Elliot spoke, Kassner closed out the ceremony by saying a few more words about Parks.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have to say goodbye to Sgt. Maj. Parks, but I know – we all know – he will always be a member of the Wolfpack,” Kassner said. “He has been a wonderful leader, a mentor and a great friend to me. He embodies all those bumper sticker phrases you hear of – including our unit quote: The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
As the ceremony wrapped up, Parks turned to the battalion and issued them one last command: “Marines, at my word – Chaaaa!” And the Marines responded a resonating “Chaaaa!” which Parks said was one of the best goodbyes he could ever receive.
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