April 10, 2014 --
The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, was filled with songs, awards and compliments by well-wishers at the farewell for retiree, William H. Ponder Jr., logistics management specialist, Marine Corps Systems Command, April 3.
Retirement letters from President Barack Obama, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and an American flag, which was raised and lowered in Ponder’s honor at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington, Va., were just a few of the commendations bestowed upon the man who devoted 33 years, nine months of his career at this command.
Ponder, a 1977 graduate of Monroe High School, Albany, Ga., and a 1982 graduate of Albany State University, has spent more than half his life and his entire work career on this installation as a civilian-Marine in support of the warfighter.
Throughout his civilian-Marine career, Ponder held many logistical positions from cataloger trainee to supervisory logistics management specialist.
At Ponder’s ceremony, retired Marine Lt. Col. John R. Calvert, retiring official, spoke to attendees and reflected on his working history and interaction with Ponder during the time they worked together in MARCORSYSCOM Albany.
According to then-Maj. Calvert, he worked with Ponder on two tours at MARCORSYSCOM; the first time was in 2001 when Ponder was a logistics management specialist and head of the Tactical Wireless Team, and the second tour was in 2006 when Calvert returned to MARCORSYSCOM.
“When I got back, thankfully, William and others like him were still there supporting (the command) with their expertise,” Calvert recalled. “But, it was an all new game in 2006. Our world was now characterized by some very intense priorities in getting equipment to Iraq. It was a kind of no holds barred environment. We were working in rapid procurement and fielding, it seemed like every couple of months.”
According to Calvert, everything was intensified post-911 and as such, there were critical pre-deployment equipment lists for items needed in some remote locations in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. As such, Ponder’s role in helping to manifest the immediate turn-around time of inventory was essential.
“It was silent, diligent heroes in places like Albany, Georgia, (and people) like William Ponder, who made those miracles happen,” Calvert shared. “They were miraculous in comparison to the paces that anything moved prior to it (although) I will not compare it to now. It was that type of working relationship that I enjoyed with William. Things that we accomplished during that tenure, I (can) share because I know them very specifically.”
Robert L. Lewis Jr., who worked with Ponder as a technical publications logistics management specialist, MARCORSYSCOM, said the retiree was his supervisor for the past six years and he had learned from him.
“He taught me a lot actually,” Lewis said. “I came over like a rough-neck. Just (having) retired from the Army (and) working with retired Marines - old school types. What I said and what I did, if it wasn’t raw enough, it wasn’t accepted. So, Mr. Ponder brought me over, he sat me down and explained to me that you could get a lot more done with the way you approach others. (He explained) I didn’t have to do all of the hard talking — all the harsh talking and the big demands.”
Lewis continued to share the personal impact that Ponder’s tutelage had on him, on his own leadership style and the transformation of his overall working relationship with others.
“I had to learn how to respect myself before I was able to respect others,” Lewis continued. “My idea of respect was if you’re lower ranking than me, you are going to respect me. (William) taught me that that’s just not the way to go. He pulled not only the manhood out of me (but also) he pulled the Christian side out of me. For that I am truly grateful. I was heading down the wrong path. If it wasn’t for the things he taught me, I probably would have (broken). He has definitely left a legacy.”
Lewis concluded his summation by describing Ponder’s most notable personal as well as professional characteristics and his leadership style.
“He is just a genuine all around good person,” Lewis concluded. “He never meets a stranger. He just has this air about him. You’re going to do one of two things, you’re (either) going to love him or you’re going to like him a whole lot. He’s a leader and he’s soft spoken. I want to lead as he has led me. (A leader doesn’t) have to be a loud person to be loud. I love him, I’m going to miss him (and) I’m going to continue his legacy.”
In his remarks, Ponder thanked the friends and colleagues, his church family and his wife, Yvette, for their support over the years. Afterward, he cited his favorite workplace philosophy for the crowd.
“Pay me now or pay me later,” Ponder said reflecting on his meticulous standards for completing his assigned projects.
Ponder said the one thing, which has had the greatest impact on his life and career was in 1990 when the Lord transformed him.
“With that, it caused me to change my way of thinking, my way of doing things, my way of dealing with people and my way of addressing issues,” Ponder recalled. “It gave me a different temperament. Through my salvation, it made me better able to deal with people and to be able to be open and honest with them in a kind and gentle way, while still getting my point across.”
Reflecting back to his “pay me now or pay me later” theory, the retiree linked his “33 years, nine months and some days” tenure to his contribution to the warfighter and his ability to evaluate the situation and give sound advice and guidance.
“Things that I saw - if we didn’t take action now to take care of that and put things in perspective - they could hurt us in the long run,” he pointed out. “It would take more time and be more costly to repair down the road.
“(Finally,) I want to thank the Marine Corps for giving me a career, not just a job,” Ponder concluded. “It hasn’t always been easy - but in spite of all that, I’ve just been blessed.”