MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- In his own words, Sgt. Maj. Allen Tanner, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, ‘went from the yellow footprints to the rank of sergeant major,’ which he now holds after 30 years of service.
When he shared that statement with the men and women gathered at his retirement ceremony, March 9, 2012, it wasn’t to overstate a fact, but instead remind them they could travel down that road as far and as long as they wish.
In Tanner’s case, however, that road was far from paved and easy. With a total of 10 deployments under his belt, and two tours of duty aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., first as a Drill Instructor, and then again at the Drill Instructor School as a trainer, Tanner’s experience and exploits give credence to the saying that every Marine is a leader. This was the driving force behind his decision to enlist, back in 1982.
“I think every Marine that joins is looking for the chance to lead the best,” said the Lynchburg, Va,, native. “Knowing it was the most challenging of the armed forces, it was the only choice for me. I think my motivation for being in the Marine Corps, is the Marines. I grew up in a life where you are always courteous to people, and being in an organization where we promote discipline and customs and courtesies - It comes naturally to me, you don’t have to be trained that way. Ultimately, the camaraderie is the reason I stayed around, that’s my motivation right there.”
As Tanner moves closer to his actual retirement in December, he will be replaced by Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Cressman, who served as II MHG (Forward)’s sergeant major, recently returned from a year with MHG’s deployed component in Afghanistan.
“[Tanner] took over back home, where he checked on the Marines, managed deployments, redeployment, replacements, all the things that we couldn’t do from the forward,” said Cressman. “It’s a team effort and it’s the hallmark of the Marine Corps – we lived it. He was an invaluable part of the team and I cannot give him enough thanks for holding down the fort.”
In addition to the brotherhood he shares with close friends in the Corps, and the bond amongst his fellow Marines during his many deployments, Tanner said he views his family as one of his great sources of comfort and support.
“I think everyone looks back and reflects on family, and mainly on their wives, who stick with them through thick and thin,” said Tanner, speaking of his wife, Leslie, of 27 years. “Every day I appreciate her, and I think I’m lucky that my wife was prior Navy, so she understands it. With kids, you need to remind them and tell them.”
With retirement ahead, and several decades of military service soon to be behind him, Tanner reflected on the future, the chance to spend time with his children and other family in Virginia.
“I think when you talk about retiring, when you look at life in the Marine Corps and retirement, it will never go away because you retire to an area where you’re going to see fellow Marines, and it’s something people say you never want to let go,” said Tanner. “I could say personally if I could rewind and do 30 more years, I would. I’m looking forward to spending time with my family, my wife and my kids, especially my son – spending time with him, and being able to mentor him in the way I mentor young Marines.”
Viewing his retirement as a “bitter-sweet” event, Tanner now looks back on a long life of service, to both Corps and country, before turning his eyes forward, to the future, with the knowledge that after decades of manning his post, the Marines he has trained and mentored, are ready to be his relief.