Tradition of Partnership – Marines celebrate 241st birthday of Corps with 3-mile run

Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard watches from his home the approaching Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion before joining the group for a 3-mile run. (Photo by Phil Grout)

Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion serenades garrison commander before he joins celebration of Corps’ birthday featuring run, cake, esprit de corps

In the early hours of Nov. 10, about 200 Marines ran down Roberts Avenue and stopped outside the home of Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard.

As Rickard stood at attention, the members of the Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion — led by their commander, Lt. Col. Michael R. Challgren — serenaded Rickard with “The Marines’ Hymn.”

Rickard then joined the Marines on their 3-mile run to the Freedom Barracks to commemorate the 241st birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps.

“Happy birthday, Marines,” Rickard said as they gathered in the back plaza of the Freedom Barracks after the run. “It’s an honor and privilege to be invited to run with you.”

Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Rodwell L. Forbes, who began his military service as a Marine, also joined the celebration.

Show of gratitude

“The reason we invited the garrison commander to run with the unit on the Marine Corps birthday is that we have a long tradition of partnership with Fort Meade, having had elements of the battalion stationed at Fort Meade since the 1960s, with the battalion headquarters moving here in 1995,” Challgren said after the event.

“Inviting the garrison commander to join us is a way to acknowledge and say thanks to Team Meade for the wide variety of services and quality-of-life support that the installation provides to our Marines.”

The Marine Cryptologic Support Battalion has more than 550 Marines serving in eight states and five countries, supporting the global cryptologic enterprise.

The battalion headquarters and two companies are located at Fort Meade.

An additional four letter companies are located at Fort Gordon, Ga.; Aurora, Colo.; San Antonio; and Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, with smaller elements throughout South Asia and a sub-unit in Germany.

As part of the cake-cutting ceremony, Master Gunnery Sgt. Steve Berry, the battalion’s senior enlisted advisor, read a message originally sent Nov. 1, 1921, by John A. Lejeune, the 13th commandant of the Marine Corps.

The message was published for every Marine command in recognition of the 241st birthday:

“In every battle and skirmish since the birth of the Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term ‘Marine’ has come to signify all that is highest in the military efficiency and soldierly virtue.”

After the entire message was read, Challgren cut the ceremonial birthday cake and gave a piece to Rickard as the guest of honor.

In accordance with Marine tradition, Challgren then cut a piece for himself, as the oldest Marine present, and a piece for Lance Cpl. Rob Distefano of Company B, the youngest Marine present.

“We’ve got a great team here,” Challgren said. “Everybody’s doing this across the Corps, worldwide.”

Reason to celebrate

The birthday, Challgren said, “celebrates those who’ve gone before us and those who are with us right now.”

The esprit de corps expressed during the run was fitting for the Marine birthday, said Challgren.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said.

The celebration continued Friday evening with the battalion’s Marine Corps Birthday Ball at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel.

“The Army and Marines have been working together for a long time and we’ll be working together for a long time to come,” Rickard said after the run.

After the cake-cutting, the Marines gathered inside the Freedom Barracks for breakfast.

“This is inspirational and meaningful,” Distefano said. “This is what I really want to feel going forward.”

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