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Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Nearing retirement, Marine 1st. Sgt. shares experiences

By Pamela Jackson | | July 30, 2009

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Jeffrey J. Kirby, first sergeant, Inspector - Instructor, Detachment 2, Supply Company,  4th Supply Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group, has been in the Marine Corps for 20 years and will retire effective Nov 1, 2009.

I-I, Det. 2, is a tenant command at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany which houses the reserve unit.  Kirby said their sole purpose is to prepare reservists for mobilization with the warfighters. 

“Our unit augments a lot of Marine reservists to active duty in logistics operations.  What better company or detachment than here on MCLB Albany where we have all the assets available to help them become more proficient,” he said.

He is scheduled to begin his terminal leave on Aug. 6, 2009 where he will return to his small hometown of Dixon, Ill., where he proudly says that President Ronald Reagan was also born and raised.

Kirby graduated in 1989 from Dixon High School and knew he wanted to be a Marine from an early age.

He said that as soon as he could make his own decisions, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. He spent his 18th birthday at Chicago military entrance processing station, enlisting in the Marine Corps and in October 1989, he reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. 

“I have wanted to be a Marine since the age of 16, but my parents would not sign the paperwork because they did not want anything bad to happen to me. Now they are very proud of me and the career that I have had as a Marine,” he said.

Kirby added, “As a matter of fact, after the Gulf War, they were stranded in the middle of nowhere in Arizona on their motorcycle and the one person who stopped to help them was a Marine. My mom has since said to others not to ever tell me I made a bad decision to join the Marine Corps.”

“Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I wanted to be in an infantry unit.  Because of the allocations for that year, they could not send me as an infantryman, instead I was sent on an open contract.  I didn’t care because I just wanted to be a Marine.  After combat training to become a basic rifleman, I was given the military occupational specialty of a communications wireman,” Kirby said.

“I asked what that was and was told it was basically a ‘grunt’ with wire.  I thought that was great because I would get two jobs in one.  From there, I went to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to receive my training and as luck would have it, I ended up at 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, a short distance away,” he added.

Kirby said he was lucky enough to have a combat tour with that same unit and was able to mature very early in the heat of the battle.  From there he went to Okinawa, Japan.  He said he loved the infantry so much, he requested to be transferred to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in 1992.

“I spent five years there and had multiple deployments over to Okinawa, Japan, and that was my comfort zone.  I really wanted to be a drill instructor, but was not able to because I was considered ‘valuable’ to my MOS.  Thirty days later, I was screened by the recruiting team and my MOS was suddenly not as valuable,” Kirby explained. 

In August 1997, he went to recruiting station Sacramento, Calif., and was a canvassing recruiter there.  “As a staff sergeant, I ended up being the noncommissioned officer in charge of my own substation, so I stayed an extra year hoping to become a career recruiter.  I wanted to do my part to bring in the next generation of Marines,” Kirby said.

Kirby said that did not happen.  After his recruiting duty ended, he called his career monitor and told them he wanted to go back to any infantry unit in Camp Pendleton.  “I went to 2nd battalion, 4th Marines, to be back in the unit deployment program and was promoted again, to gunnery sergeant.  I was fortunate enough to go to Okinawa again to be a part of both tours during Operation Iraqi Freedom, but was extended one year there,” he said.

Kirby said his career monitor then told him that he had to go to a communications squadron at Miramar, Calif.  “It was a deployable unit, so that worked for me.  We were preparing to go to Iraq, but as my luck and blessings would have it, I was selected to first sergeant.  That promotion put a damper on my going back overseas,” he said.

“That was the first time in my career that my career monitor told he would not send me back to the division.  That box has been checked, he said, and that I had to get out of my comfort zone.  So, I took leave and waited a few months for my next assignment,” Kirby said.

Kirby said his then sergeant major knew he had not seen any of his children born and his wife, Nicci, was pregnant with their third child, Mykaylah, who is now three.  “While at the hospital with my wife and newborn daughter, I received a call while in the recovery room telling me I had orders to I-I in Albany, Georgia.  At first, I was a little upset, but like all good Marines, I packed my gear and got over it,” he said.

Kirby said that he thought he would just do his three years, hopefully get promoted to sergeant major and go on with his career.  But, when his fourth child was born, he started leaning toward the decision to retire.

“Albany has truly been a diamond in the rough.  During the years that I was deploying multiple times, I missed a big part of my sons, Alexander and Jericho, growing up.  Now that I have seen all three years of my two daughters growing up, I like being around.  My mentality has changed.  At the end of the day, they won’t care if I was a great sergeant major or spent 30 years as a Marine, but they will care that I was there to attend the soccer games, help with school projects and whatever else they were involved in,” Kirby said.

Kirby says his wife had a very complicated surgery when his youngest daughter, Madolynn, now 20 months old, was born and it changed his perspective.  “My family is what counts the most.  I had a good career and have made good friends along the way. Now, I will be moving on, but leaving the Corps in good hands to those who will come behind me,” he said.

Kirby currently works with seven active duty Marines and one Navy corpsman. One of them is Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy French, operations chief, Detachment 2, Supply Company.  “First Sergeant Kirby is a consummate professional and serving with him has been a privilege. His absence from the I-I Staff will be felt for some time to come,” said French.

“We have a home back in Illinois and plan to return there next week.  I have a honey- do list already, so my next few months are already planned out,” Kirby said.  “After the first month, I plan to get my commercial driver’s license and look for state employment as a highway maintainer.  I’ve set myself up for success by planning ahead.  If I don’t get a job right away, I will start school in the fall.”

Kirby said that other than not getting the opportunity to be a drill instructor, his one regret is not taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered to get his college degree before he retired.

 “I had opportunities to get my education, but didn’t practice what I preached as a recruiter.  I did take some courses, but I made other things a priority.  Maybe that’s the way God intended it for me,” he said.

Kirby said his replacement, 1st Sgt. James Watson, has already checked in and is a former active duty Marine who returned to fill this billet.

Maj. Christopher D. Morton, Inspector-Instructor, Det. 2, said, “First Sergeant Kirby has been a key member of the I-I staff for the past three years and has been a part of the leadership team here during historically unprecedented mobilizations and deployments in support of the Global War on Terrorism.”

Kirby offered the following words of wisdom to younger Marines.  Pursue your education.  Start with the professional military education so you can excel in the basics of being a Marine, but do go to college in order to become more competitive.

“The Marine Corps gives it all to you, but you have to dedicate the time and have the discipline to accomplish it.  I concentrated on the PME, but not the college degree.  You can’t be a Marine forever,” Kirby said.

“Through his service here, he had a tremendous impact on the detachment and the Marines here, as I am certain he has had with every unit he served with during his 20 year career. We all wish nothing but the best for him and his family as they return to Illinois to begin this new chapter in their lives,” Morton said.

“Your initiative is only limited by your creativity,” he said, calling it a “Kirby original.”

His farewell celebration is at Pin City on Saturday beginning at 6 p.m., open to all.


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