MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Across from Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany executive officer’s desk in his office reads a sign, typed in large black letters, “What would John J. McDermott do?”
Lt. Col. Donald Finn, who is retiring from the Marine Corps after 23 years of service, used the sign as a daily inspirational reminder, he said.
Finn served with McDermott, who began in the enlisted ranks, fought in the Vietnam War and later became a commissioned officer, at the Training Support Division, Headquarters Support Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“Kent (Morrison, executive director, MCLB Albany,) and I both worked for him, he said. “He was a phenomenal leader (and) had a very common sense way about it - quality over quantity. Kent had the same experience with him.”
Finn also adorned Morrison’s office with the motivating words.
An artilleryman, who served in all four Marine Corps divisions, Finn reminisced about some of his experiences during his illustrious career that expanded his leadership styles as well as provided him invaluable tools to lead Marines and civilian-Marines here.
He began his career with 1st Marine Division, followed by 3rd Marine Division, 4th Marine Division and 2nd Marine Division.
“My first four assignments were all associated with one of the divisions,” Finn said. “It just worked out that way. I think the fact that I had some broken time and actually went into the Reserves, too, and had an opportunity to serve with 14th Marines kind of added a nuance to it. Most folks are on active duty the whole time and never get a chance to serve with the 4th Marine Division.”
His break in service was due to a reduction in force in the augmentation rate in 1993 and he returned to active duty three years later.
Selected for the Commandant of the Marine Corps National Fellows Program in 2002, Finn considered it one of the highlights of his career. He was assigned to a one-year fellowship with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C.
“(The program) was relatively new,” Finn said. “The year I applied was the second year of the program that the Commandant, General (James L.) Jones, started at the time. They selected 10 majors to go work at various Fortune 500 corporations throughout corporate America. The idea was you would kind of take a sabbatical from the Marine Corps, wear a suit and tie and go work at one of those corporations. I had an opportunity to see how a corporation works at upper levels management (and) bring those best practices back to the Marine Corps.”
He cited his humanitarian experiences while with USAID such as in Kuwait and Iraq with the Disaster Assistance Response Team in March 2003 as providing him with invaluable experiences and helping him with his role here as well as assisting other Marines and civilian-Marines with theirs.
Finn praised the efforts of MCLB Albany officials with antiterrorism and force protection and the continuity of operations memorandum signed with Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in the event a hurricane hits there.
“Here at Albany I’m very happy and very proud of how far we’ve come with respect to antiterrorism (and) force protection issues aboard the base,” he said. “Folks here have embraced it’s more than just writing down in a standard operating procedure what would we do, but actually implementing some of the stuff through the training process and through exercises (like) putting out barricades. We’ve had tremendous lessons learned.”
“(We’re) the safe haven for Parris Island, but what we’ve done is taken it a step further,” he added. “If Parris Island was to get hit by a Katrina-type hurricane, and what if they got here and they didn’t have anything to go back to and they had to actually continue training recruits? They wouldn’t come here for two or three weeks and then go someplace else. They would have to stay here so that’s been a big initiative we’re working with Parris Island on.”
Finn’s time with USAID and working with its water and sanitation folks helped him with the Parris Island initiative, he noted.
“When we talk about where we would set up a tent city and what are some of the other things that come with what people call gray water, what about all the runoffs from sinks, from laundry, from kitchens and stuff and where does that go,” he said. “You obviously don’t want that stuff running off right where people are living. All those things come into play. When the subject matter experts - the police department, the fire department and the mission assurance folks - (were) talking I had a better understanding of what it was they were trying to convey having had that prior experience.”
Finn also helped other base officials, like Capt. Myles Baer, future operations officer, Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany, in working with the Doughtery County Public Health Department; Jim Vaught, Albany-Dougherty County Emergency Management Agency deputy director; and Albany’s Mayor Willie Adams.
Finn said it is truly appreciated that Adams recognizes the importance of partnering between the base and the community.
He also thanked Baer for his efforts in bringing together the base and the community with emergency management.
“He’s really been the driving force in opening those lines of communication and working very closely with the community. He’s taken us to a whole another level and without him we wouldn’t be where we are today,” Finn said.
Kent Morrison, Executive Director, MCLB Albany, said he thoroughly enjoyed working with Finn.
“He is a Marine’s Marine and cares a great deal about not only just the Marines aboard MCLB, but the civilian-Marines as well,” Morrison said. “He was a good sounding board for me when I might be having a tough day and I, in turn, was for him. We had a great working relationship and (an) even greater friendship. I will miss his quick wit, his extreme love of our beloved Corps and the friendship we have enjoyed over the past years. All I can say to him, as he goes into the next chapter of his life and he is faced with future challenges is simply, ‘Lieutenant Colonel Finn ... what would John J. McDermott do?’ He will know what I mean.”
According to Morrison, McDermott was his executive officer at Parris Island from 1989-1990 and gave him his first company command at Weapons Training Battalion.
Bob James, Deputy Director, Operations and Training Division, MCLB Albany, described working for Finn as “a great experience. His care and concern for every Marine and civilian employee epitomizes Marine Corps leadership. He demanded excellence in all that he did and those (who) worked for him feed off that attribute and we wanted to do the best that we could possibly do. He has this infatuation with Elvis, which may be linked to his days as an artilleryman and being around loud noises.”
Upon his retirement, Finn; his wife, Lori Ann, and son, Garrett, and daughter, Sabrina, will live in Minnesota.
“I have so many fond memories,” he said. “I’m so glad I came here. I’m going to miss Albany and I’m going to miss the people. It’s time to start a new chapter (in my life) and I’m probably going to miss the weather.”