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Marine Corps Recruiting Command

Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

3280 Russell Road, 2nd Floor Quantico, Va. 22134
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General changes: Maj. Gen. Paxton bids farewell to depot, Western Recruiting Region

By Staff Sgt. Jeff Janowiec | | August 04, 2006

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO -- While addressing a gathered crowd during a recent Morning Colors ceremony at Pendleton Hall, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego and the Western Recruiting Region paused, which has become a routine over his three years at the depot, to allow the roaring noise of an outgoing airplane from nearby Lindbergh Field to fade away.“We have scheduled some flyovers for you,” said Maj. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., jokingly to the families and friends of recruits graduating that day as Marines.“I want you to know that your son or loved one has looked at that aircraft for the last 12-and-a-half weeks and that is his freedom bird and it is his ticket home,” he said, with laughter following from the audience.“So he’s delighted that you’re here now and he can actually go home,” said Paxton as he gave a thumbs-up to them. “But he does indeed have something to be proud of; he has earned the coveted title of United States Marine.”Marines graduating from boot camp were the ultimate culmination and highlight of Paxton’s time at the depot, which officially ends today during a change of command ceremony at 3:30 p.m. on the Joseph H. Pendleton Hall lawn, where he will relinquish his command to Brig. Gen. Angela Salinas.Salinas is coming to the depot from her previous duty as the chief of staff, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Quantico, Va.During Paxton’s command, he oversaw the training of recruiters and drill instructors, and ensured a smooth transition in transforming more than 17,000 civilians a year into Marines. This was successfully accomplished all while caretaking and improving the depot itself.“With great wisdom, the Marine Corps put both recruiting and recruit training under one general,” said Col. Arthur J. Corbett, commanding officer of 12th Marine Corps District.“The transformation process starts when an applicant raises his hand in the air and ends on the parade deck at graduation,” said Corbett, a native of Philadelphia.“The recruiting and recruit training process that Paxton oversaw took place in as near a frictionless environment as I can conceive,” said Corbett. “Not only did he transform recruits into Marines, but he transformed the process itself by bringing recruiting and recruit training into a near seamless whole.”Having been a recruiting officer from 1985 to 1989, Paxton has had experience in the systematic recruiting of the all-volunteer military strategy that started in 1973.He understood then and during his tour at the depot, that there were necessary elements in recruiting for the Marine Corps. He said individuals volunteering for service are academically sound, physically strong and morally straight. These elements afford the Marine Corps the best possible building blocks so the drill instructors can take young men and women and make them into Marines.“I can tell you unequivocally that we are getting the best quality that we need for today’s Marine Corps and for combat in today’s world,” said Paxton, who hails from Broomall, Pa.There were major challenges posed to recruiting during Paxton’s tour at the depot of which he dealt with through positive and consistent leadership and a willingness to put good ideas from the field to use.“Despite a protracted, media criticized war, when the recruiting service was reduced to 85 percent of manning level, Paxton led his Marines with an optimistic confidence that inspired us all,” said Corbett. “He trusted his Marines to do what was right, and led us with energetic example.“He is the kind of leader no one ever wants to let down. His solution to problems was to look for additional tools—not to break Marine backs trying to do the same thing the same way. “Videos like Educator Speak and the (Musician Enlistment Option Program) video reflected his commitment to innovation and the ability to move good ideas to become new tools,” said Corbett.Good ideas weren’t limited to recruiting. Paxton accepted the X-2 Program, which was designed to decrease the number of recruit injuries and was spearheaded by the preceding depot commanding general, Lt. Gen. Jan C. Huly, deputy commandant of Plans, Policies & Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps. A few years ago, there was an awareness that hundreds of recruits per year were being sent to the Basic Marine Platoon due to injuries. According to Paxton, these Marines worked hard to get through boot camp, but weren’t physically prepared to move on to the School of Infantry at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.After the program had been going for about six to eight months, the findings were identified as mostly lower extremity injuries and stress fractures caused from the Crucible, which was at Week 10 of training, followed directly by the final physical fitness test and final drill.He mentioned that many recruits were not used to the combat boots or the hectic physical exertion.Because of these injuries, the Crucible, not having lost any of its potency of nearly 40 obstacles over 54 hours of sleep deprivation, was moved up in training by a few weeks. To give the recruits’ bodies time to recover after the Crucible, they began to train in the pool and were fitted for uniforms instead of marching constantly and preparing for a rigorous PFT.“We found that there was a dramatic decrease in the number of stress fractures when we did that,” said Paxton. “Consequently our population in BMP dropped significantly. It went from 20s, 30s and 40s to two, three and four (per cycle).“It’s a big improvement and that’s why we’re making more Marines, better Marines and we’re saving tax dollars because we don’t have broken Marines waiting to get back into the pipeline here,” he said.Paxton was involved with the transformation process of recruits, yet his influence was not directly on them; rather it was on the leadership and the training which was responsible for that transformation.“His key influence on the transformation process was the legendary Marine Corps drill instructor who is a strategic asset to our Corps,” said Col. Robert O. Sinclair, commanding officer, Recruit Training Regiment. “He has a personable leadership style,” said Sinclair, a native of Seattle. “He made everybody he spoke to, from a recruit at the Emblem Ceremony to the senior leadership, at ease when talking to us.”The commanding general’s enthusiasm for his work never waned. He understood the critical aspects of making Marines and the teamwork required between the recruiters and recruit trainers for success. “The transformation from civilian to recruit and recruit to Marine could not be accomplished without a coordinated and unified effort,” said Col. Mark Callihan, chief of staff for the depot and WRR. “The commanding general was central to that taking place.“When I was the commanding officer of RTR, he continually reminded us of not only our specific mission responsibilities, but how we could help the other guy make mission,” said Callihan, a native of Edmond, Okla. “We were successful here because of the team. “He provided guidance and trusted the commanders to make things happen,” he said. “His supervision was accomplished without being overly directive; in other words you felt empowered. Empowerment generated enthusiasm for the work, and enthusiasm generated a very positive work environment. The cycle continues uninterrupted.”Paxton inspired others with the history he espoused. According to Barbara McCurtis, director of the MCRD Command Museum, whenever he told a historical story, those listening knew it was accurate.She also said that Paxton was the first commanding general of the depot, that she knows of, who ensured people called each building by its name rather than by its number in order to preserve and honor the integrity of the Marine Corps heritage.The tour that Paxton spent at the depot was a successful one. But he said that success came through the teamwork of all the Marines, both officer and enlisted, who were involved in recruiting and the recruit training process.He said that WRR and the depot have had 36 straight months of success. It was going on long before he arrived and will go on long after he departs today to his next duty station as the commanding general of 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif.“I have tremendously enjoyed and benefited, both personally and professionally, from this three year tour,” said Paxton. “It’s truly been one of the highlights of a very fortunate career for me.“I applaud the individual and collective work of each and every member in this command: Marine, sailor, [Coast Guardsmen] and civilian Marine. They all do great things. And I have been proud to be a part of their team since they accomplish an important mission in our Global War on Terrorism,” he said.“I will feel good about having been a part, just a small part, of this recruiting and recruit training process and I will also feel pride forever for those great Marines who make that process happen every day, particularly the canvassing recruiters and drill instructors,” added Paxton.As he leaves, the staff at the depot and throughout WRR will miss Paxton for the leadership he provided and the effort he made to keep the Marine Corps thriving and moving forward with strength.“Trust and nerve are leadership qualities that reflect depth of character,” said Corbett. “They inspire an environment that promotes risk taking and entrepreneurship. Gen. Paxton is a motivational leader who had the trust and nerve to lead in an environment of great adversity and difficult circumstances. He was the right man for a difficult time. Few others could have survived where he helped us thrive.”


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