CAMP SUFFISANT, Curacao -- During their second week of training in Curacao, Marines of Force Reconnaissance Company, II Marine Expeditionary Force, were visited by Sgt. Maj. William F. Fitzgerald III, the sergeant major of United States Marine Corps Forces South.
Born in Big Rapids, Mich., Fitzgerald opted to enlist in the Marine Corps years ago in October 1984, instead of attending college.
“I had enrolled in college classes at the university in my home town,” said Fitzgerald. “I was set to go to school when the recruiter called me up at 10:30 a.m., and invited me to sit down with him to look at the educational opportunities the Marine Corps had to offer, so I did, and here I am 26 years later.”
Fitzgerald was originally an infantry rifleman. He left active duty and joined the Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company reserve unit as a parachute rigger. When Fitzgerald decided that he didn’t want to continue in the reserves, he reverted back to active duty.
“In the eighties, the infantry field was closed,” said Fitzgerald. “When they closed the [infantry military occupational specialty], everyone had to make a lateral move. I came back active as a parachute rigger.”
Fitzgerald has never worked with Marines from Force Reconnaissance Co., but he has worked with reconnaissance Marines from other units.
“I worked with the reconnaissance Marines in California while I lived there in the eighties and nineties,” he said. “The [force reconnaissance Marines] are professional, highly effective and represent the Marines Corps very well.”
Fitzgerald was given demonstrations of different weapons systems on the rifle range and spent time viewing static displays of equipment that Marines use.
“Shooting the sniper rifles was awesome,” said Fitzgerald. “It gave me some flashbacks to my younger days. I had never shot the [M107 special applications scoped rifle] before. I’ve shot the [Browning 0.50 caliber machine gun] many times, but never the M107.”
The sergeant major also went to Force Reconnaissance Co.’s Marine Corps’ Ball as the guest of honor. Fitzgerald gave a speech in which he expressed the importance of celebrating Marine Corps traditions and recounted Marine Corps history.
“On top of the fact that training is necessary, it is also necessary that we uphold our traditions because it is what we are and who we are,” said Fitzgerald. “Our generation represents the Marine Corps past, present and future.”
The Force Reconnaissance Co. ball was not Fitzgerald’s first opportunity to be the guest of honor, however it was the first time he had been awarded a paddle by the Reconnaissance community.
“I’m not a reconnaissance Marine,” he said. “I am very appreciative of being afforded the opportunity to come here as a guest speaker. [The Paddle] by far is the best gift I have ever received, simply because I know the history behind the paddle and what it means to reconnaissance Marines. Force Reconnaissance Co. made me feel very welcome and I hold the paddle they gave me in high value.”