Camp Pendleton, Calif. -- MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines and sailors with I Marine Expeditionary Force bid farewell to Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Smith, command master chief of I MEF, at a change of charge ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton June 3, 2016. Smith is retiring after 30 years of honorable service to the United States Navy.
“I’m still pretty amazed that I’m sitting here today at the end of 30 years as a command master chief,” said Smith, a Ridgecrest native. “That young 20-year-old entering boot camp had no clue what he was going to do, where the job was going to take him or what he would end up doing. When I joined the recruiting slogan was, ‘It’s not just a job it’s an adventure.’ It’s been a pretty good adventure.”
Smith enlisted in the Navy in 1986. During his father’s time as a Marine he was stationed on several Naval bases. Growing up in a military family and surrounded by Navy personnel and medical providers, joining the Navy seemed like a natural fit.
“Over 30 years it’s difficult to pick out a single highlight, there have been so many,” said Smith.
From starting his career as a hospital corpsman, a veteran of Operations Desert Shield/Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as several other deployments overseas, Smith's experiences exemplify the opportunities the Navy has to offer.
“It’s been one great thing after another,” Smith said. “A lot of it was blind luck and a lot of it was by the helpful hand of other people that saw something in me that allowed me to continue to succeed.”
While reluctant to brag about his own career, his leadership and dedication did not go unnoticed, both by those under him and those who rose through the ranks along with him.
“I have known Command Master Chief Smith for roughly 13 years,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Frank Dominguez, incoming I MEF CMC. “We served together during OIF I and II and during the battle of Fallujah.”
Dominguez recalled during the battle of Fallujah a moment that exemplified the kind of man and sailor Smith was.
As the battalion senior chief petty officer of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Dominguez explained his unit was taking casualties deep into the city. Despite being the regimental senior chief, Smith personally made trips from the nearby Forward Operating Base to treat the wounded and transfer them back to the rear, not once but several times.
“It meant a lot that he wasn’t afraid to come out,” Dominguez said. “That he wasn’t just at the FOB watching from the sidelines.
“He is a humble servant leader,” said Dominguez, a Superior, Arizona native. “He would give you the shirt off his back. I remember many of times that I would ask him for ‘XYZ’ and he would give me ‘XYZ’ plus.”
Dominguez continued to say that Smith has done a phenomenal job at I MEF and there are some big shoes to fill.
Although the Marines and sailors of I MEF said goodbye to one of their finest leaders, effects of Smith’s career are sure to resonate throughout the ranks for years to come.
“It has been a privilege being the [I MEF] command master chief for the last three years and the [1st Marine] Division CMC two years prior to that,” said Smith. “I don’t think any enlisted sailor or Marine joins with the intent of doing 30 years on their first day. It’s been a great adventure and a humbling experience and I would never trade it for anything.”