MGySgt Carlton E. LeDrew USMC (Ret) (1961-1981)
MGySgt Carlton E. LeDrew
US Marine Corps (Ret)
WHAT INFLUENCED YOUR DECISION TO JOIN THE MILITARY?
I am a Canadian transplant. While serving in the Canadian Army (Boy Soldier, 2nd Battalion PPCLI Airborne, 3rd Battalion. Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment of Canada), our instructors taught us how well they thought of the US Marine Corps with comments like “If you have US Marines on either flank, normal displacement of weapons, otherwise, heavy weapons on the weak flank.” In our Sergeant’s Mess hung the Eagle Globe and Anchor of the Corps. All of this was from serving with Marines in Korea.
Upon completion of a seven-year enlistment, I went to work for a Canadian company in the oilfields of Texas. While there, I met and made friends with a couple of young USMC Sergeants, recruiters no less. The next thing you know, at age of twenty four, I was standing on the yellow footprints at MCRD Parris Island, SC.
WHAT WAS YOUR SERVICE CAREER PATH?
I left Parris Island as a PFC, American Spirit Honor Medal recipient and Series Honor Man, for duty with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines at MCB Camp Lejeune, NC which included a trip through the Caribbean aboard the Boxer, LPH-4.
From there it was duty at C&E Schools (San Diego and 29 Palms) both as a student and as an instructor. I served two tours to Vietnam, Chu Lai and the Da Nang area, with visits to Hue, Phu Bai and Dong Ha. I was fortunate to be granted U.S. Citizenship between these tours, in 1968.
I then followed duty as Senior Career Planner for MACG-38 at MCAS El Toro and then some five years of recruiting duty as the senior recruiter in Atlanta and Operations Chief in Macon, Georgia. My final duty station was MCLB Albany in Georgia.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS? IF SO, COULD YOU DESCRIBE THOSE WHICH WERE SIGNIFICANT TO YOU?
Yes, two tours in Vietnam. The first in 1966 and 1967 and the second in 1969 and 1970. Neither would provide material to write a book about other than personal observations of Marines doing their duty under less than desirable conditions.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT?
Truly, it is a toss-up between being a Career Planner and a Recruiter as both of these tasks affect the greater good of the Corps. In one, you have the potential retention of a trained and ready Marine. With the other, you are bringing a wide cross section of America’s finest young men and women wanting to be trained as a Marine.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU AND WHY?
There were too many to single out just one! From the beginning, my Drill Instructors in boot camp to Instructors in MOS schools, Marines and Sailors aboard ship, overseas duty, working with foreign troops (Canadian, South Korean, Australian), and learning from both young and seasoned Marines. I came away with a wealth of life-lasting experience and knowledge. The mentoring of senior Marines to junior Marines was a key element for a successful career.
CAN YOU RECOUNT A PARTICULAR INCIDENT FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT WAS FUNNY AT THE TIME AND STILL MAKES YOU LAUGH?
As a recruit at Parris Island, I was somewhat of an oddity being age twenty four, married, having seven years of previous service (albeit with the Canadian Army). During one of many inspections, I was asked who my Series Commander was. I replied, “Sir, my Series Commander is 1st “Leftenant” Vogler, sir! “Lieutenant” is pronounced “Leftenant” in Britain and other countries of the former British Empire.
“Leftenant” . . . “Leftenant” . . . I do remember leaving my body outline in sweat on the deck after that, and learned very quickly to remember “Lieutenant” thereafter.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW? IF CURRENTLY SERVING, WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT JOB?
Several months prior to retirement, I attended a Veterans Job Fair. I interviewed with several companies and decided on joining a specialty advertising firm as a sales rep. I knew it might be a challenge, but I felt that since I had succeeded as a Marine Recruiter, I could do well here and, fortunately, did.
In the following years, I considered a number of interesting challenges that included management in the fast food industry (McDonalds); director of a disabilities program for a county in Arizona; management of a pest control company (I became the company expert on termites, scorpions, Africanized bees, and pigeons); working for myself as a consultant for small businesses (tough boss). One of the most interesting challenges was that of property manager for a fair sized church in California. It had five buildings, including a 1300 seat sanctuary, a seven-acre lake, a soccer field, four parking lots and all the peripheral landscaping. They had all of this with a staff of two full-time, two part-time workers and a limited budget. My Marine training and learned scrounging abilities served me well on this job!
In my ‘retirement’ I am anything but retired! I work with and actively participate in programs and projects designed to assist Veterans of all branches of the Armed Forces. I am also a member of the Military Affairs Committee of the local County Chamber of Commerce and I work with our church Boy Scout Troop. One of our Scout service projects is the monthly cleaning of some 3,000 plus plaques at the local Armed Forces Park.
WHAT MILITARY ASSOCIATIONS ARE YOU A MEMBER OF, IF ANY? WHAT SPECIFIC BENEFITS DO YOU DERIVE FROM YOUR MEMBERSHIPS?
My first membership with any military association was with NCOA [Non- Commissioned Officers Association] While I was still on active duty stationed at MCB 29 Palms, California, and MCAS El Toro, it offered me a way to give back to the community and still maintain my identity as a Marine.
I then joined The American Legion and became very active with their programs, in particular – Boys’ State, Law & Order, Scouting, Membership, and Ceremonial Team. Because of the principles and philosophy of the American Legion (at 2.5 million members with over 14,000 Posts worldwide), I have done more community service as a Legionnaire than with any other Veteran’s association membership. I was fortunate to have mentors within the Legion who were not shy about sharing their experiences and taking the time to guide the rookie.
Side point: When the Judge finished the new citizen swearing in ceremony in 1968, he then took the time to advise us, as new citizens, that we now had the obligation to give back to the community, state, and nation. Little did I realize at that time I would come to know and recite the preamble to the American Legion constitution that states in part, “to serve the community, state, and nation.”
As time passed, I added ‘support memberships’ in the MOPH, VFW, MCA, the Marine Heritage Foundation, and Vietnam Veterans in Canada. Locally, I am an active member of the Marine Corps League and the Vietnam Veterans of America. The VVA Chapter has a ceremonial team that serves as a color guard and firing team for veteran’s funerals and community events.
HOW HAS MILITARY SERVICE INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
You just never lose the basic premise of what it is to be a U.S Marine! I apply the Marine spirit and attitude to everything that I do. At age thirteen in Canada, I was pretty much on my own. Upon turning sixteen, I was on active duty with the Canadian Army as a “Boy Soldier” (the boys of the beardless battalion). At age twenty four, I became a Marine and never looked back. Subconsciously or consciously, if you will, I use my Marine training in all aspects of my life.
For me, “Attitude is Everything,” you have a choice when you first put your feet on the deck in the morning. You can say “Good morning, God!” or you can say “Good god, it’s morning!” That phrase will set the pace for the rest of your day! Follow this with “Adapt, Improvise and Overcome,” and you get the picture.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL SERVING?
Learn from example and share by example. Mentoring is the key to success in the military and in later life! Find a mentor to emulate as you grow in your career, and then be a mentor to those who follow you. Never stop learning! Take all the MCI courses that relate to your MOS and then go for more. More means taking night school classes at a local community college. With a computer, you also have access to online classes. Again, never stop the learning process because it will help you with your Marine Corps career and it will definitely help you should you decide not to stay in the Corps.
IN WHAT WAYS HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU MAINTAIN A BOND WITH YOUR SERVICE AND THOSE YOU SERVED WITH?
TWS is a great website! What a service it provides to all Marines out here in cyberspace! I have been reunited with comrades going right back to boot camp, through all schools and duty stations, Vietnam and even now in my so-called “retirement” status.