MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Tis the season of retirements, posts and reliefs and changes-of-commands. One of the first post and relief ceremonies of the season included a sergeant major who's done his twenty and then some.
Sergeant Maj. Ronald L. Dangerfield, 6th Marine Regiment, affectionately known as 'Spider Man' to his closest colleagues, retired May 3 after 30 years of faithful service to his beloved Corps.
As most Marines do, Dangerfield had a few reasons why he chose the Corps over any other service.
"When I joined in '72, Vietnam was going on at the time. I wanted to go to the infantry because when people think of the Marine Corps they think of infantry and combat arms," said Dangerfield about his choice to join the Corps. "Marine Corps was the number one service in my mind due to the fact that my dad was a former Marine. I wanted to feel that same pride about being a Marine as my father did. I also wanted to join the Corps because I heard it had the toughest boot camp. I was going to an electronics school in Louisville, Ky., and found out I wasn't cut out for school. I dropped out and joined the Marine Corps. So I went off to boot camp and after that, I weighed every bit of 130 pounds. They made me a machine gunner. I'll never forget what my dad said when I called him and said, 'Dad, I joined the Marine Corps.' Then he told me "Son, you don't know what you've just done. They are going to kill you.'"
His career quickly accelerated from rapid promotions to a brief moment where he was uncertain about making the choice to re-up or punch out.
"I went from lance corporal to sergeant in seven months," said Dangerfield. "I was having a great time but there was period of time when I was in Okinawa when I decided to get out but someone changed that for me. There was a Gunnery Sgt. Chester, our company guns, who used to be a series gunnery sergeant on the drill field. He convinced me to extend to go to the drill field and that was that. After I made that choice, I came to realize 'once you go over four years, there's no turning back.'"
Some of his immediate family are doing or have done their duty with the Corps as well.
"My wife, who retired from active duty as a master sergeant administration chief, got herself a degree and now I'm retiring so we're doing pretty good," he said. "But not only was my wife a Marine, my brother is currently a master sergeant with 2d Tanks. He happens to be the Marine I recruited to prevent me from rolling a 'doughnut' while on recruiting duty."
When talking about the most important things he learned while serving his thirty years in the Corps, he only had a couple words to say.
"Never quit," said Dangerfield. "Just never quit and you can do anything you want."
When asked what other people would say about him when he's not listening, he had a few good things to say.
"They probably all say I'm crazy," said Dangerfield. "But I love life, and I love people. My philosophy on life is that you don't have to be a (undesirable person) to be a good leader."
Dangerfield wants his troops to be open with him.
"I want that private or Pfc. to feel comfortable enough to come up and talk to me," said Dangerfield. "Being a sergeant major is like being the eyes and ears of your commander and those privates and Pfcs are your best source of information. If they're scared of you, they won't talk to you."
When asked what his favorite ranks was, he said something that would probably surprise some Marines.
"I was a sergeant major at my twenty so I just kept going. I was a sergeant major and it doesn't get any more fun than that," Dangerfield explained. "People ask me what your favorite rank was and most guys will tell you corporal or sergeant, but I think sergeant major was the best rank for me."
Even though Dangerfield did not say corporal or sergeant was exactly his favorite rank, he still believes they play an important part within a unit -- but not like they used to.
"Lance corporals and Pfcs were more afraid of the noncommissioned officers. The NCO had more power back in those days," said Dangerfield. "When I made sergeant, it meant more to me than I think it means to make sergeant today. I think the NCOs don't get the respect and don't have that authority like they did back in those days."
Even after 30 years of handling the ins-and-outs of the Marine Corps, the sergeant major is ready to press on. He's moving on to some of the more important things in life like his family and his education. But like in the infantry, he still wants to play in the sand.
"I'm going to relax and play a lot of golf," said Dangerfield. "Then my family and I are going to take some time off and go on a cruise to Alaska."
After a brief vacation and a few rounds on the green, Dangerfield wants to better himself by going to college.
"I'll be going off to school in September to pursue a teaching degree in either math or even science. I heard they're hurting for teachers in those areas," said the sergeant major about his educational goals. "I was never really good at math in the first place, but on top of that, by just looking at the math these kids bring home nowadays, I'll have to go to a lot of school to learn it all."
Dangerfield's school-aged kids also play an important role in his life and sometimes he worries about them.
"I got a son that's 16 and a daughter who's 14 going on 24," he said. "My son has got his mother's personality which is good, however, my daughter has my personality--so she's going to be trouble."