MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
As the senior enlisted Marine of the Combat Center, Sgt. Maj. Matthew B. Brookshire embarks on concluding nearly three decades of experience, adventure and leadership in the Corps.
Brookshire’s Marine Corps career began in 1987, when he left his hometown of Waynesville, N. C., to begin recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S. C., a duty station he would later call home several times throughout his career. As he took his first steps toward a life-long career, he was unaware that he would one day take the place of the men who molded him into the dedicated Marine he became.
After achieving the military occupational specialty of 0311, infantryman, Brookshire was assigned to Company A, Marine Barracks 8th & I, Washington, D.C., where he served as a fire-team leader and squad leader.
In 1992, Brookshire requested orders to the drill field. He returned to MCRD Parris Island, but this time as a sergeant attending Drill Instructor School. His first cycle as a DI was with Company H, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment.
“It was a very rewarding job,” said Brookshire. “You see the transformation in recruits that culminates in the end.”
It was at this time that Brookshire met Tracie, the woman that would not only become his wife, but a devoted and proactive companion throughout his journey in the Corps.
“I met my wife when I was on leave after drill instructor school,” Brookshire said. “Behind every great Marine is an even greater wife.”
Brookshire attributes the bold things he has done in garrison, field and foreign countries to always having someone that supports him back home.
“From being away on deployment, the field, and work, she still holds down the house and does what every Marine can hope for,” Brookshire said. “Without her support, I wouldn’t be where I am.”
After a tour in Hawaii that included two deployments to Okinawa, Japan, Brookshire returned to the drill field in 1997 at MCRD San Diego with Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment. Two years later, he became an instructor at Drill Instructor School, instructing warrior training and Corps values to aspiring drill instructors. He ended his time in the drill field as a Drill Master, the drill instructor that ensures all recruit battalions are consistent in the execution of close order drill movements, an essential part of Marine Corps training and tradition.
“Just like recruits, you see drill instructors progress as well,” Brookshire said. “The product must be strong because (they are who) train our future Marines.”
Serving as the base sergeant major was Brookshire’s third and final billet at the Combat Center, serving previously as the company gunnery sergeant for Company E, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, then being re-assigned to Company L, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, where he deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“Installation of the year four years in a row speaks highly of the personnel here, and I can’t speak highly enough about everybody’s cooperation,” Brookshire said. “This is the premier training facility of the Marine Corps and it’s a great training environment, backed by a great community.”
Brookshire fondly remembers his time serving with the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment and says his most rewarding experience in the Corps was serving as the sergeant major of 2/7.
“Being their senior (enlisted) leader and seeing what they accomplished will always make (serving with 2/7) the highlight of my career,” Brookshire said.
The battalion was one of the first to deploy to Afghanistan in 2008. Brookshire claims that his two years of watching what his Marines did and how they operated in Afghanistan made them heroes in his eyes.
However, the deployment proved to be devastating for Brookshire with the loss of 20 Marines killed in action, and more than 60 wounded. According to Brookshire, their commitment to the Corps and to mission will never be forgotten.
“Serving with those Marines was the best thing I’ve done, and how they performed was truly amazing,” Brookshire said. “That battalion is what being a Marine was all about.”
According to Tracie, Brookshire’s wife, and the recent recipient of the 2013 Service to America Award for her volunteer work, the battalion was like a family to them.
Brookshire attributes his success in his Marine Corps career to the Marines that led him during his earliest years in the Corps.
“I learned that to be a good leader, you must be a good follower to start,” Brookshire said. “I’ve been fortunate throughout my career to be surrounded by good leaders, and to learn from them.”
Brookshire also believes in leading by example. In part he has achieved this by embracing his physical abilities by running several marathons throughout his Marine Corps career. He ran two while stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in 1994 and 1996.
“I arrived in Hawaii and decided to do the marathon, but I hadn’t trained at all,” Brookshire said. “It was the first marathon (I had ever ran).”
“I was hurting, but I finished it,” Brookshire said.
Later, he would go on to participate in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. in 2006, 2010, and 2011.
“The three in D.C. I trained for, because (Hawaii) was a very hard lesson,” Brookshire said.
At that point, Brookshire’s standards for the Marines under his command came to light.
“He even signed up all of the sergeants major at Parris Island to run them,” Tracie said. “And they did.”
Brookshire has now moved to the town of Matthews, N. C., to teach at Weddington High School as a Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps instructor, a long-time aspiration of his that began when he was in high school when he met a Marine mentor before enlisting.
“I was taught by Master GySgt Fred Smith, a great leader,” Brookshire said. “He set that example for me and it’s why I wanted to join (the Marine Corps).”
Now, it is time for Brookshire to take charge as a teacher.
“When I was in high school I did JROTC and I enjoyed it,” Brookshire said. “Now that the option to teach came up, I took it.”
As Brookshire moves on to the next chapter, he will always remember what the Corps has taught him, the same way the Marines that served with him will remember the lessons he has imparted upon them.
“I have enjoyed every day of my 26 years in the Marine Corps, and every day at the Combat Center,” Brookshire said. “There’s no greater honor to me than being a Marine.”