CAMP LEJEUNE, NC – Sgt. Maj. Richard W. Ashton relinquished his post as sergeant major of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command to Sgt. Maj. Thomas F. Hall during a ceremony at MARSOC headquarters aboard Camp Lejeune, Sept. 30.
Ashton, whose comprehensive career spans more than three decades, was the third Marine to take the position of MARSOC’s top senior enlisted in Sept. 2009.
As a former reconnaissance Marine, scout sniper, drill instructor and chief diving instructor at the Navy’s Diving School in Panama City, Fla., and as a veteran of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, Ashton’s appointment to MARSOC sergeant major was, to say the least, fitting. Along with standing up 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and assisting in the development of the Marine Combatant Diver Course, Ashton also assisted in the activation of the 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion in May 2006.
But Hall’s appointment is equally appropriate. As a Marine security guard, Hall protected embassies in Lima, Peru and Guatemala, and served as a detachment commander at embassies in Jordan and Beijing. For his extensive background in the Marine Security Guard Battalion, Hall was assigned to the Marine Security Guard School in Quantico, Va., as an instructor. As a tanker, he served in the 1st, 2nd and 8th Tank Battalions in multiple capacities, including tank platoon sergeant and tank leader. Hall has also deployed with several Marine Expeditionary Units, including the 15th, 13th and 22nd – all Special Operations Capable. He is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
“[Hall] has a rich background of leadership in many locations, particularly warfighting locations,” said Maj. Gen. Paul E. Lefebvre, MARSOC commander. “I think the saddle’s pretty comfortable for him already.”
“At times, this is an intimidating position,” said Hall as he addressed the crowd. “But it’s also a very proud position. There’s a lot of responsibility. We need to ensure that [our Marines and sailors] are trained properly, deployed properly, supported while deployed, and welcomed home properly. And that responsibility lies with me,” he said.
As Hall prepares to add another installment to his story, Ashton is closing the book, and retiring after 32 years of service.
“No more words of wisdom, you’ve all gotten enough of that,” joked Ashton. “Today is a day for me to say, ‘thank you.’”
Lefebvre reciprocated in a speech that bid farewell to his right-hand man of the past 2 years.
“Marines are who we are. Special operations are what we do,” he said. “And the man who brought that home more than anybody else was Sergeant Major Ashton.”