Base posts new sergeant major; adds another star

31 May 2002 | SSgt. Jason Huffine

The base added to its long-standing history here this morning when it posted a new sergeant major and added to its battle colors.

Sergeant Maj. Brian Pensak relieved Sgt. Maj. Otis Kokensparger following a ceremony in which the base commanding general placed a star on the Marine Corps Base Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer.

With a mix of clouds, sunshine and salutes, a narrator read the commendation as Maj. Gen. David Mize placed the now four star streamer on the battle colors. The award represents the work the Marines at the base do, said Mize. He said the base received the award because of its Commander-in-Chief Installation Excellence Award it received in 2001.

The general immediately turned to the post and relief at hand and passed the Noncommissioned Officer's Sword from one sergeant major to the other. With Pensak posted, Kokensparger, who had been the base sergeant major since January 1999, joked with the ceremonial platoons in place.

"No one will fall-out of the formation," Kokensparger said to get everyone's attention. He then began with farewells.
"I want to first thank the 2d Marine Division Band. Not once since I've been here have you guys missed a mission."

He continued with his "thank yous" and, like most Marine leaders, expressed favor to his fellow enlisted Marines -- one in particular.

"Where's my color sergeant?" he said looking for Sgt. Michael Naranjo, who had pushed back his annual leave to hometown New Hampshire to make sure he was there to see Kokensparger off.

The 30-year Marine thanked Naranjo for his dedication and compared to Naranjo to most other Marines today. He said today's Marines seem to always do what it takes to get the mission done.

Kokensparger then shifted his comments to Lejeune specifics.

"It's kind of like a pig attracted to mud," he said. "If you're a Marine, you want to be at Lejeune."

He said this as he talked about Lejeune's uniqueness and how it serves nearly 135,000 people in a non-metropolitan area. He explained this tour was nothing like any other he has served as a sergeant major. He said everything seemed different - from the phone calls to the type of missions base Marines have.

Pensak, who comes from The Basic School at Quantico, Va., said in the traditional manner as the "new guy" he would keep it short. However, in the couple of minutes the California native spoke, he let attendees know he was home. He said this was his fourth tour here and the place his children also call home.

Kokensparger will retire here at 9 a.m. June 12 at W.P.T. Hill Field. He will return to his native Ohio to be a military instructor with a local reserve officer training corps unit.