Re-enlistments by SECDEF "chance of a life-time"

28 Apr 2002 | Staff Sgt. James J. Connolly, Jr.

The custom of having guests participate in Marine Corps re-enlistment ceremonies, held in high regard by leathernecks as a chance to renew their vows to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, is not uncommon. However, when the guest happens to be the Secretary of Defense, the event goes from uncommon to unforgettable."This was a once in a lifetime chance," said Sgt. Mark Foster, a field radio operator assigned to Company K, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfelds' participation in his re-enlistment here recently. "I was honored, and glad to have him do it."The re-enlistment of Foster, along with that of Cpl. Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio occurred during the Secretary's recent visit to Afghanistan. Prior to attending several meetings and a press conference at the Presidential Palace, Secretary Rumsfeld received a briefing at the U.S. Embassy regarding the ongoing training of the Afghan National Army. During that briefing, the request to participate was passed by Marine leadership to the Secretary's staff."He (Secretary Rumsfeld) was on his way out (following the briefing) and someone asked him to re-enlist us," said the 26-year-old Gonzalez-Rubio, who added that the Secretary seemed very enthusiastic about the idea. "I really liked that, it was very impressive." "It's motivating to have someone that high in your chain of command take time out of their busy schedule to re-enlist you," explained 29-year-old GySgt. Eric Kuhns of Lockport, N.Y., the senior enlisted Marine. "That in itself made this re-enlistment special."Following the oath, which was administered by Vice Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani, Jr., Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Resources, Warfare Requirements, and Assessments (N8), Secretary Rumsfeld shook the hands of both Foster and Gonzalez-Rubio, and thanked them for their service. According to Foster, in a humorous conversation afterward, the Secretary tried to downplay his role in the ceremony."After it was over, he said "You know, it must be nice to have a Vice Admiral re-enlist you," said Foster, a native of Shreveport, La. "He didn't include himself in it at all."The experience has been a career highlight for Foster, who admittedly grew up idolizing the Marine Corps. During his first enlistment, he served as a supply clerk on Okinawa from 1989 through 1993, while attending college.Foster separated from the Corps in 1993, but remained in Okinawa, working for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office aboard Camp Kinser while completing his degree in Japanese studies.He returned to the United States in 1996, and two years later, found himself being drawn back to the Corps. He returned in 1998 with communications as a new military occupational specialty. Foster considered pursuing a commission, but academic requirements coupled with timing forced him to choose a different path. "When I got to 3/8, we went to Combined Arms Exercise a month later, followed by work-ups for the next Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment," he explained. "At that point, I looked around and decided that I wanted to be enlisted."For Gonzalez-Rubio, a scout-sniper assigned to 3/8, the Marine Corps has provided him an opportunity to travel, in addition to challenging work. "There aren't many scout snipers in the Marine Corps," explained the native of Miami, Fla. "It is a very tough job, but you can change a battle with just one shot. If you take that shot and hit the target, you can change everything." Summing up this memorable re-enlistment, Foster said, "I was really glad he (Secretary Rumsfeld) did this. I'll have something to tell my grandkids."