ABOARD THE USS TARAWA (LHA-1) -- “He’s everything a gunnery sergeant should be,” boasted Capt. Murphy W. Morgan, 1st Force Recon Platoon commander.
The simple statement summarized all the reason behind Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May’s recent meritorious promotion.
May, a team leader with 1st Force Reconnaissance Platoon, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, transcends the virtues of the Marine Corps so well; in fact, he barely had a moment to spare before his high-speed team prepared for another training mission aboard the USS TARAWA (LHA-1).
In February, May was informed by his chain-of-command that he was nominated for the I MEF meritorious gunnery sergeant promotion board. Morgan, with help from Gunnery Sgt. Mark Schmidt, made the decision.
“I talked with Gunny Schmidt, and we agreed that he deserved to be put in,” he said, “based on his performance during the past year, and what we’d heard about him previously.”
Morgan could have been talking about May’s top-ten percent finish at the Staff NCO Academy Career School, or perhaps his extra curricular service that has earned him an Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
Documentation aside, however, Morgan is quick to say that May, as a man and Marine, instills strong values that have put him above the rest.
“Hard work, mission accomplishment, troop welfare … he goes above and beyond,” said Morgan in a matter-of-fact tone, “but to add to that, he’s a good family man.”
May is no stranger to hard work. His favorite pastime, remodeling homes, stems from his childhood under the influence of his Father, a 30-year veteran of the Corps, and his Mother, a retired Chief Warrant Officer-3.
While life was hectic in the May home, working was something that helped him “get away.”
Of many jobs as a youth, including a bus boy at age 13, his favorite was working with his father remodeling homes.
“It was sort of a love-hate job,” started May as he headed for the punch line, “I loved the work, but I hated not getting paid!” he joked. Selflessness is a virtue that May considers one of the vital aspects of his personality.
Learning from his years as a Marine, he has twisted his leadership style into a patience-base endeavor. Taking a less-than-popular Marine and molding him into a hero under fire is another one of May’s accomplishments.
“There’s always the young (Marine) who wants to get out after ‘four,’ but they benefit the most from working with someone who gives them guidance – as opposed to just yelling at them … I like showing Marines that there’s a better side. Some of the Marines that no one liked were the best performers under fire (in Operation Iraqi Freedom),” he said.
The patience he has for Marines, said May, is not just for their benefit. “I think you can gain more from your Marines if you give them the respect that you want.”
May’s success with leading and inspiring Marines has earned him three “Super Squad” titles, a product of his ladder-climbing work ethic. As a young NCO, said May, “I was hungry. I was always trying to prove I could do the job above me. I was always gunning for someone else’s job.”
Underway or running ship-to-shore training work-ups is keeping May busy, he said, but his ongoing projects with his home are keeping him sane. “I’ve remodeled my entire house, everything except for the landscaping because I ran out of time.”
Remodeling, said May, is a project that whittles his personality down to a leadership translation.
“I’m willing to take on any new challenge,” said May, “I think you need to make a decision and go with it. I’d rather get yelled at for making a decision than sitting on my ass and not doing anything. You just need to take a chance, but it pays off.”
When an obstacle falls in the way of achievement, May doesn’t skip a beat. “If I don’t know how to do it, I’ll take it apart and figure it out.”
If providing life-changing guidance to young Marines, honing his Marine skills with Professional Military Education (PME), or remodeling isn’t enough to satisfy May’s hungry personality, the pitter-patter of little feet around the house certainly are.
May answered each question with a confident response and maybe a chuckle, but when he spoke of his 14 month-old son, Ryan, the 6’2” powerhouse rocked backed and gasped, smiling, “He’s a terror right now. He gets into everything, and he’s huge!” He and his wife are also expecting a daughter in August, another one of life’s many challenges that May looks forward to.
For more information about warriors like Gunnery Sgt. Christopher May and the Fighting 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, visit www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.