Master Sgt. Todd McKeown, Commanding Generals administrative chief, has served in the Marine Corps for 18 years at duty stations around the world. He attributes his success as a leader to the mentors who have helped him along the way and he strives to keep positively influencing the Marines under his charge.
>I grew up in Huntington Beach, California, and I have been in the Marine Corps 18 years. I joined the Marine Corps because my dad would ask me all the time what I wanted to do and my answer was always “I want to be a Navy SEAL.”
> I am slightly color blind and I found out that the Marine Corps has [challenging] training similar to SEAL training but without having to go the Special Forces route, which turned out to be the best decision for me.
>After I enlisted, I [discovered] that my grandfather was a Marine. He was a marksmanship coach back in the day, which I think is pretty cool.
>I was an administrative clerk initially at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego for the Drill Instructor and Recruiter Schools.
>I later got orders to Okinawa, Japan for a one-year unaccompanied tour. While in Japan, they consolidated the administrative center and I helped set up the first one, which opened up the opportunity to do internal inspections for the [Installation Personnel Administrative Center].
>After Japan, I got orders to [Marine Corps Air Station] Miramar to work at the G1 [Administration and Manpower] office. Later, I got orders to Kuwait during the retrograde for everyone coming back who was part of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
>I became a Recruiter in Montana for three years and afterward an instructor at my [Military Occupational Specialty] school in Camp Lejeune, where I taught Warrant Officers, Adjutants and career-level Marines.
>I have been in Twentynine Palms for three years. Mentors that I have had have influenced me at every duty station I’ve been to, and I want to pass that knowledge on.
>When I was a sergeant I had a ‘gunny’, whose mentorship left a lasting impression on me.
>I learned from him to take care of my Marines and mentor them in any way I can.
> I don’t want to call them my children, but at an IPAC where I had more than 30 Marines I looked at them like my kids because I took care of them that way.
>I have five of my own children at home so it makes it easy for me to mentor and teach them.
> I tell each one of my young Marines not to base their Marine Corps career on this place or their first duty station.
>Whether it is here in Twentynine Palms or wherever, your first four years is a learning experience. Once you pick up rank and reach non-commissioned officer status, it gets a lot better.
>I go to church every week and I help lead a men’s group at the Twentynine Palms Baptist Church. My children keep me really busy but I take the family on walks and bike rides when I can.
>My mom and dad have been very supportive of me as well as my wife’s family. Most importantly, my wife and kids have been supportive of the military lifestyle.
>My wife has her teaching credentials and we home-school our children. Whenever we move, it’s not as hard on them and they enjoy the military life.
>My father taught me how to swim when I was in high school. I wanted to be a SEAL so before I enlisted there was a youth program called the Sea Cadet program. They held a two-week training that went with the SEALs, which required you to do a 500 meter swim in less than 30 minutes.
>My dad had a lot of influence on me. He did a lot of martial arts and when I was younger and he would take me along to roll around on the mat. In high school, Tito Ortiz was my coach before he became a fighter in Ultimate Fighting Championship.
>When the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program came around my dad was a big enthusiast and he would always ask me about it.
>I was in the second class at the very beginning of the program and received a tan belt. After that I worked my way up to be a green belt instructor. At that time my dad would ask me when I was going to be an instructor, or when I was going to get my black belt.
>He was always on me about my martial arts, swimming and all around physical fitness. He liked to work out and he always pushed that on me. That has helped me out a lot in the Marine Corps. He has never pushed me to stay in or get out, but to keep doing what I like and what I enjoy.
>I always remind my wife that as long as I enjoy what I’m doing, I’m going to stick around. As soon as the job becomes boring and I don’t like it anymore that’s when it is time to go.
>I just re-enlisted which will take me to 22-years and I’m still enjoying it. It’s not about the promotions, it’s about enjoying what you do and enjoying coming into work every day, also being there for the Marines under you.
> I always will try to be the mentor that ‘gunny’ was for me. When I look back at the Marines that I have influenced and the things I would not have been able to do anywhere else, that’s what keeps me going.