MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
After devoting nearly three decades to the Corps, teaching and leading Marines, Marine Corps Logistics Command’s senior enlisted Marine is retiring.
Sgt. Maj. Stephen A. Balczo, sergeant major, Logistics Command, is scheduled to be retired during a relief and appointment and retirement ceremony Friday in front of Building 3500.
Balczo joined the Marine Corps on May 26, 1982, looking for direction and a challenge for his life. While attending Recruit Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., he set his goal to become a sergeant major early in his career.
“I was very much inspired one day, out on the grinder, when I saw two sergeants major talking,” Balczo said. “I saw the stripes on their Alpha uniforms and as we learned the rank structure, I learned what a sergeant major does. I remember saying that one day I would be a sergeant major, and I did.”
Twenty eight years later, Balczo reflects on his Marine Corps career and time spent at the enlisted helm of Logistics Command.
Sergeant major builds morale, teamwork
“My position as sergeant major is jack of all trades, master of none,” Balczo said. “There are no two days that are alike in this job. On any given day, I am anything from mentor to counselor and educator to salesman.”
The Coldwater, Mich., native also said the expectation of a sergeant major is the same as it is for any staff noncommissioned officer and NCO.
“We are to build morale, espirit de corps and teamwork of every Marine within the command,” said Balczo, who has held his position since May 16, 2008. “It doesn’t take a Marine, new to the command, long to assess the level of a unit. As sergeant major, it’s my job to find those disparities and train to the effectiveness of that which is missing. That is the foundation of what we do.”
In addition, he also provides guidance and counsel to Marines of all ranks as well as civilian-Marines.
“If I am worth my salt as a sergeant major, there should be constant traffic in and out of my office seeking guidance, wisdom, counsel and direction from the commanding general on down,” Balczo said.
As he prepares for retirement, Balczo said what he will miss most is the daily interaction with the Marines and civilian-Marines here at Logistics Command and abroad. Sergeant major thanks civilian-Marines
“We could not complete our mission if it were not for the civilian-Marines,” Balczo said. “I would have to say the majority or at least half of Logistics Command’s civilian workforce are either retired or have served in the Marine Corps at some point.”
The workforce understands the mindset, lingo, mission requirements and most importantly, the customer - the Marine on the battlefield, according to Balczo.
“When I combined those ingredients into a civilian-Marine, coupled with the mission of the command, they are Marines wearing a different uniform,” he said.
Sergeant major always on the road
To ensure the mission of Logistics Command is being carried out, Balczo has traveled extensively.
“Within the last 12 months I have journeyed in excess of 75,000 miles, traveling the Marine Corps or traveling Logistics Command, which is truly one in the same because we are everywhere,” he said. “I never anticipated the requirement to travel as frequently as I have.”
His travels have taken him around the world, from Norway to Okinawa, Japan. He has also traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Kuwait, interacting with Marines and artisans, learning of their efforts and accomplishments as they support warfighters.
Sergeant major calls Albany ‘best kept secret’
“The time is right,” he said. “I think what happened is preparation and opportunity met and I listened to the wisdom that God gave me.”
The difference between 28 and 30 years is at best one more duty station, Balczo explained.
“I get to retire on a positive note and I’m not being told to retire because my time is up and it’s time to go home,” he said.
Balczo said he is proud this is his last duty station and thinks Logistics Command should be known as the best kept secret in the Corps.
“The support of the community and interaction with the community has been phenomenal,” he said. “We (Logistics Command) really have a fantastic working relationship with the greater Albany area.”
“Albany is a unique place and I have truly enjoyed my time here,” Balczo said. “The place is right and the time is right. I am looking to becoming a true ‘Albanian’ as a retiree.”
Balczo reflects on Logistics Command’s accomplishments
Overseas Contingency Operations
“Marine Corps Logistics Command deployed for the first time in its history in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Balczo said. “We established a forward headquarters with a commander, a staff and a capability.”
This was the first time Logistics Command supported warfighters directly on the battlefield.
“They were so proficient to where the Corps is now going to have to look at Logistics Command and the capabilities we have brought and ask whether or not the capabilities should be sustained by Logistics Command,” he said.
New appointment for Headquarters Group East
“Acquiring a sergeant major for Headquarters Group East was a huge achievement for Logistics Command,” Balczo said. “Adding to the Table of Organization is a very difficult thing to do.”
According to Balczo, Maj. Gen. James A. Kessler, commanding general, Logistics Command, has supported him on multiple trips to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C.
“I traveled to Manpower, not just to sell or coerce, but to build a mental picture why a sergeant major is needed,” he said.
Drill and ceremony
“We no longer conduct ceremonies inside the circle of Building 3500, besides morning colors,” Balczo said. “We are using the parade field to instill Marineship again. Drill and ceremony takes time, effort and discipline.
“The command is busy and we are still at war, but we must give the junior Marines the sense they are Marines and not a ‘cubical item,’” he said. “By venturing out on the parade field and requiring them to drill, is something we as a Corps need today. We are going into nine-plus years of combat. To maintain our momentum, we have to slow down and conduct small unit leadership and ‘hip-pocket classes’ as we used to do as young Marines. This will sustain us as the postured force of the future.”
Balczo gave credit to the Marines and civilian-Marines for Logistics Command’s accomplishments.
“It is because of our artisans and Marines out there on the forward precipices of maintenance that the mission of Logistics Command is accomplished, which is supporting the warfighter,” Balczo said.