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Changing careers: Marine to motherhood

14 Jul 2011 | Pamela Jackson

Harry Emerson Fosdick, a noted American clergyman, penned the famous quote: “Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to.”

The quote continues to be used by authors all over the world as a retirement anecdote and one Marine certainly has a lot to look forward to in her retirement - motherhood.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Bessie L. Reggans retired June 24 at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd here at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, after 30 years of service to the Marine Corps.  She now enters retirement as a new mother to 2-month-old daughter, Jayda.

Reggans, a native of Eudora, Ark., graduated from Eudora High School in 1980 and reported to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in August 1981. She attended military occupational specialty training as an automotive basics mechanic at Camp Johnson, N.C., and graduated in May 1982.

“My most rewarding experiences have been the experiences themselves,” she said. “I’ve grown up in the Corps and have had many successes because of the leadership and mentors who ensured I had the training and guidance I needed to succeed.”

Reggans has served two tours in Okinawa, Japan; one at Iwakuni, Japan; one tour each at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., and two different assignments at Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va.  She arrived at Marine Corps Logistics Command here in August 2006 as the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the technical assistance team, but transferred to Maintenance Center Albany in July 2008.

Reggans deployed to Kuwait in support of Operation Enduring Freedom from May - December 2009, where she served as the staff noncommissioned officer of the Marine Expeditionary Unit Augmentation Program. 

“If I had to choose one particular duty assignment, it would be the tour I served at Headquarters Marine Corps Manpower Management Enlisted Assignments in Quantico, Va., as the enlisted assignment monitor for the military occupational specialties within the motor transportation field,” she said. “This tour helped me to see and understand the big picture of the Marine Corps. It challenged my way of thinking and provided a vast depth of knowledge that I truly believe I would never have received from any other assignment.” 

Marine Corps history was made in April 2006 when she was recognized by Jet magazine, a weekly publication targeting African-Americans, as the first black female master gunnery sergeant to serve as a motor transport maintenance chief.

Reggans’ response to Jet magazine regarding her historic position was, “I am truly blessed and humbled before God almighty for allowing me the ability to achieve this rank.  It is a wonderful feeling and a great privilege to wear the rank. I’m equally honored to be the first African-American woman to serve as a motor transport maintenance chief in the Marine Corps.”

CWO3 James M. Pappas, Marine liaison officer-in-charge, MCA, said he was honored to be Master Gunnery Sgt. Reggans’ retiring officer because she has been his friend for a long time. He worked with her in 1998 when he was an enlisted Marine on Inspector-Instructor duty and she was the motor transport commodity manager at Headquarters, Marine Forces Reserve, New Orleans, La.

“She was always there for me when I was starting out and is still keeping me on track,” he said.  “She has been there throughout much of my career and I am honored to do this for her.  It makes me feel special and I could not be retiring a better Marine.  The Corps is losing a lot of knowledge and experience.”

Pappas said Reggans made a deep impact on the Marine Corps, the motor transport community and him personally.

Jeffrey Cooley, operations chief and substance abuse control officer, Marine Corps Logistics Command, echoed those same sentiments.  He worked with Reggans when he was assigned to the Mobile Maintenance Assist Team, here.

“It was an extraordinary experience working with her because she is very concise in the way she conducts business,” he said.  “She engineers a specific style of thinking that requires a constant high level of performance. Her intent was to always produce quality results from our efforts, even when it was difficult at times to do.”

Cooley said he and other team members benefitted from her knowledge and experience greatly and feels they did the Marine Corps a great service under her leadership.

“I will miss her leadership and motherly approach the most,” he said.  “She could be stern at times, but it was never with the intent to bruise the working relationship, but to produce a desired product and she did her job very well.  We need more people like her.”

Maj. Latressa Steward, current operations officer, Logistics Operations Center, Logistics Command, deployed with Reggans to Kuwait.  She said Reggans is a great leader, a beautiful person, a wonderful mother and a friend for life.

“She was there when I arrived and was serving as the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of current operations,” she said.  “She was a motivated leader, very well versed and basically took me in and showed me the ropes.  When she left, I was prepared to continue for the next five months without her.  I’m really going to miss her.”

Reggans said she wants to personally thank all Marines around the globe for helping to make her career what it has been and helping her develop into the woman she is today.  She encourages all Marines to strive to do and be their best because in the end, it will all be worthwhile whether or not it’s at the end of four years or 30.

“I will miss my Marines, and the people I’ve met and worked with the most, but am looking forward to staying home and bonding with my baby girl and finalizing plans for my upcoming wedding in September,” she said.  “I may start looking for a job in early 2012, but for now, I’m going to spend my retirement enjoying the next chapter in life as a new mother.”

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany