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Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Readiness Enabler for Operational Forces  •
Logistics Command welcomes new senior enlisted Marine, bids farewell to predecessor

By Nathan L. Hanks Jr. | | January 21, 2011

Marine Corps Logistics Command welcomed Sgt. Maj. Christopher D. Harper and said farewell to Sgt. Maj. Stephen A. Balczo at a relief, appointment and retirement ceremony held here at Schmid Field, Friday.

Balczo was relieved by Harper in front of dozens of Marines, civilian-Marines, community dignitaries, friends and their families.

In a symbolic transfer of senior staff noncommissioned officer authority, Maj. Gen. James A. Kessler, commanding general, Logistics Command, took the noncommissioned officer’s sword from Balczo and handed it to Harper, his new senior enlisted advisor. Harper, a native of Cordele, Ga., who transferred from the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force, as battalion sergeant major, said he understands the mission of Logistics Command and is looking forward to the opportunity to serve as its senior enlisted Marine.

“The Marine Corps is right-sizing itself and its equipment as an expeditionary force,” Harper said. “In respect, this command is on top of that.”

He also said his goal is to better serve the enlisted Marines and sailors, adhere to their concerns and assist them in improving the quality of life for them and their families.

Harper thanked his wife, Linda, of 25 years, friends and guests for attending the ceremony.

In closing, he looked at Balczo and said, “I will represent the command well.” During the ceremony, Kessler talked about the duties of a sergeant major.

“As a lieutenant and captain, you are out there mixing it up with your Marines and you really get to know them at the company level,” he said. “At the major and lieutenant colonel level is where your time is devoted to other duties and it is where you begin to rely on your sergeant major.

“When you get to colonel, your time with the troops diminishes even more, causing you to rely more on your sergeant major to make sure you know what is going on.

“At the general officer level, you really lean on your sergeant major because from the time you get up, your day is scheduled. If you look out of your peripheral, you will see him walk up to a lance corporal and civilian-Marines and ask what is going on. That is was a sergeant major does. Although Logistics Command has more civilian-Marines than Marines, he still finds out what is going on,” Kessler said.

According to the general, Balczo is often calling people to fix things and occasionally gives him a heads up, letting him know something is headed his way.

“Did I ever wonder about those things I needed to know about? No,” he said. “We could not do it without you, sergeant major.”

Kessler also said at times Balczo would pull him aside, sometimes behind closed doors, to discuss certain matters.

“Whether it was to let me know I had spinach in my teeth or to fix my tie, thank you,” he said as he laughed. “This is so critical that it cannot be overstated. Never did I wonder about his approach.”

In his final remarks to Balczo, he said, “I know you are retiring in the area, and if you come back to the base, my office is always open.”

During the retirement ceremony, Balczo, a native of Coldwater, Mich., thanked his peers, counterparts and senior officers, who attended the ceremony.

“In most retirement ceremonies, the speaker passes out wisdom,” he said. “I’m not going to do that. The fact is I should be empty of wisdom. The Marines should have drained me of it by now.

“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,” he said.

Looking at the formation of Marines and the Albany Marine Band, he thanked them for their support in the ceremony and for “what you do (daily) and how you represent the command.”

For his nearly 30 years of service, Balczo received several honors including a Legion of Merit Medal, one of the Corps highest medals. He also reveived a rare award from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, which appointed Balczo to the rank of lieutenant colonel, aide-de-camp, Governor’s Staff.

He also received a certificate of retirement, congratulatory letters from President Barack Obama, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, and a national ensign, which was flown over Building 3500 in his honor.