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From Sequim, I saw the world
Darren R. Jester
Major, U.S. Marine Corps
My name is Darren Jester. I was raised in Sequim by my mother, Tamara Normart (Jester) and father Douglas Jester (deceased) along with my two older sisters Valerie Westover (Jester) and Annette Jester. I graduated from Sequim High School in 1984. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1988.Although it has been many years since I lived in Sequim, I often think of the time spent there and the people I grew up, went to school and worked with. It is customary in the military to send back updates from time to time via hometown news releases of one’s significant milestone achievements such as awards, re-enlistments and promotions, which I have up to this point failed miserably to do and hope, with your acceptance, to rectify by this letter.
Anyway, here goes …
For those of you who are FB savvy, my current status is married, very happily I might add, to my wonderful wife Trish (Strong) Jester, originally from Oregon, and I have three fabulous children — Ashley (24), Matthew (20), and Trinity (10) — to all of whom I am a very proud father.
I recently was promoted to the rank of Major as a 2802 Limited Duty Officer (LDO) or what one might refer to as a specialist in Electronic Maintenance in the communications field, in the United States Marine Corps.
Subsequent to my selection for this promotion I also was slated to PCS (military jargon for permanent change of station or pack your trash and move) to the “beautiful” Twentynine Palms Marine Base in southern California to report for duty as the Commanding Officer of Alpha Company, Marine Corps Communications Electronics Schools, and Director of the Communications-Electronic Maintenance School. Having come up through the enlisted and Warrant Officer ranks over the past 24 years, I have, of course, been selected, promoted and assigned to new duty stations on a “few” other occasions before, at least 10 major relocations of family and belongings if I recall correctly, but this particular promotion and assignment really struck a chord with me.
Following great leaders
One reason for that, which came to me while sitting here in my newly acquired office with new shiny brass oak leaves adorning my collar points, was a great feeling of personal satisfaction in that I had attained a career goal which I had set for myself and aspired to way back in 1991 as a young corporal when I was deployed overseas for the Gulf War and witnessed with great awe and admiration, my Commanding Officer and Maintenance Officer, LDO Major Steven M. Moreland, in action.
He was a phenomenal example of what it was to be both a consummate professional, really knowing your “stuff” as we say in the Corps, and a compassionate, caring leader who took a sincere interest in and truly cared about the well-being of his Marines.
He took damned good care of us throughout Desert Shield and Desert Storm, assigned us young men and women to great responsibilities, gave us the latitude to execute his commander’s intent and succeed in our own way and as part of the team, then followed through and recognized our hard efforts and accomplishments with accolades and praise when we successfully completed the mission. Major Moreland was a great leader whom I personally chose as my role model to emulate my life and career after back on one of those miserably hot desert days we had spent in Saudi Arabia together.
The other thing about this assignment and move that made me sit back and think a minute was returning to this particular school, or what we call in the military a formal learning center. One of the benefits of being a restricted officer, which all warrant and limited duty officers are, is the opportunity to stay assigned to billets (jobs) within your occupational specialty or field and become a true specialist and expert.
What this meant for me was returning now to take command of the very school which my classmates and I originally had attended when we first entered the Marine Corps back in 1988 and where we earned our first Military Occupational Skill (MOS) as 2841, Ground Radio Repairmen. In fact, this is my fifth time returning to this exact school since I originally attended here as a Private (E-1) following graduation from Boot Camp at Marine Recruit Depot, San Diego.
I have attended two additional career level schools and worked as a training officer on the staff here over the years as I climbed the ladder of leadership and responsibility to my current position. All of which is significant to me as it has brought me full circle in my career at least with regard to my original academic pathway. Staying in for 20 years is not something your average private thinks about — I certainly didn’t at the time, much less considering the possibility of returning after 24 years to the run the place. It is akin perhaps to how a teacher might feel who ended up being the principal for their hometown high school after a career abroad.
Traversing the globe
With all this talk of many visits to the desert, I hope I haven’t given the impression that Twentynine Palms, the haven that it is, is the only place that the Marine Corps has graced my family and I with living. Quite the contrary, actually. I have lived in Okinawa, Japan; Oceanside and Fallbrook in southern California; Treasure Island and Alameda in northern California; Quantico, Va., and Jacksonville and Havelock, N.C., back East; and we spent six great years between two separate tours in Hawaii on the island of Oahu. (I’m still trying to figure out how to get back there again of course but so is everybody else!)
I also have visited some very interesting places as part of my military duties and travels: Korea, mainland Japan, Germany, Ireland, and three more combat tours to the Middle East to see some more of Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I also have shared the joy of ship life with the U.S. Navy as I made the USS Kearsarge my home for a period of time traveling to and from the Middle East.
Earning my keep
But enough on catching you all up on my two-and-a-half decade exodus away from home. My main reason for writing this letter is to inform my fellow countrymen and hometown Sequimites about what I currently am doing with my little piece of the Marine Corps to earn your and my much-appreciated tax dollars. Today, right now, I am completely focused on and committed to doing my very best at running the aforementioned formal learning center we fondly call Alpha Company, staffed with nearly 200 elite civilian and military professionals qualified to lead and instruct a student body of over 1,000 Marines in 10 unique specialties from electronic fundamentals to the repair of sophisticated satellite communications equipment.
I am privileged to have command of the school here at CEMS, Company A. As commander, I will strive to ensure that our school remains the premier Communications Electronics Maintenance School in the Department of Defense. We have a wonderful reputation among our sister services and it is the hard work and dedication of my stellar staff that has given us this reputation we enjoy. My vision is simple: “To provide the best quality and most technologically advanced training possible. To always be pursuing new, innovative and efficient approaches to performing our mission of training Marines in electronics maintenance so that they can aid our Fleet Commanders in winning the battles of tomorrow.”
Prepared to the utmost
To the families of future Marines or those that may have just joined our team, the Marine Corps, my staff and I are dedicated to your Marine. We will ensure that he or she is given every opportunity to excel. Assistance always is readily available for any challenge your Marine may face while here. I encourage you to be involved in your Marine’s life. Our desert paradise can be trying at times for these young Marines, and encouragement from the families always has been found to go a long way.
Your Marine will continue the transformation process that began in recruit training, as he or she learns more about the ways, values and long-standing rich traditions of our Corps. Along with continuing this transformation process, our school provides an intensive educational environment where he or she will be faced with learning objectives that will challenge him or her to excel as he or she learns the trade of electronics maintenance. It is my pledge to you that when your Marine leaves here he or she will be fully prepared to confront the demanding tasks of Marine Corps life.
In closing, I wish you all the best and hope this letter finds everyone in good health and as happy with your life choices as I am with mine. I hope to bring the family up to visit the area sometime soon and, who knows, maybe we will be fortunate enough to run into a few old classmates or friends while we are there.
Darren R. Jester, Major, U.S. Marine Corps, www.facebook.com/pages/MCCES/133016176723380, www.29palms.usmc.mil/tenants/mcces/