MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Master Gunnery Sgt. Rongalett Green’s passion to serve others and determination was the catalyst that propelled her from a troubled past to leadership and success in the Marine Corps. Green, administration chief and security manager at Marine Corps University, enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1990. Throughout her career she served as a drill instructor and traveled the world managing logistics for the Corps, including working as staff secretary in 2004 for then-Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, Marine Corps Forces Europe. Green recently served on the senior enlisted panel June 6-7 at the 2013 Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium at the National Harbor, Md.
While she has been recognized for her work and leadership in the Corps, the role that means the most to Green, is mentor. With a candid and transparent message, she hopes her story will encourage Marines to challenge the odds and strive for greatness. “I always tell my Marines, ‘I wasn’t always Master Gunnery Sgt. Green.’ I, too, was once Pfc. Green,’” Green said. “As a matter of fact, during my very first contract, I received my first [Non-Judicial Punishment] because I got in my own way ... I was my own challenge.” Green recalled growing up in North Little Rock, Ark., being raised by a single father during a time when crime and drugs were the norm in her neighborhood. “Around the time that I graduated [high school] in 1990, drugs were running rampant throughout my town,” Green said. “It was a tough area where you had to constantly prove yourself on the bus, in the cafeteria, hallways, and at school games.” In a “survival of the fittest” environment, Green said she grew calloused. Although strong in academics and sports, her attitude was boisterous. For Green, the future seemed bleak until her junior year, when she was accepted to Parview Fine Arts and Science Magnet School. “The magnet school gave me a glimpse of a better life, compared to my previous school where [students] were expected to graduate and just hang out at home,” Green said. Optimistic and adventurous, Green participated in theatre, played soccer and volleyball, and was a cheerleader. However, she didn’t find focus until she joined the school’s Navy Junior ROTC program during her senior year. Though the camaraderie among Navy JROTC members is what initially attracted Green, it was the program’s “toughness” that struck a familiar cord. During that year, a retired Marine sergeant major instructed the program. His neatly pressed uniform and a sharp tongue intrigued Green. “When he came in to that classroom and started taking over I was like, ‘I like what he’s got and I want some of that,’” Green said. “I liked the way he spoke to us — demanding and requiring us to own up to things.” Zealous, Green said she joined the Corps looking for a challenge and adventure. However, reality set in when Green realized her location changed but her mindset didn’t. “I got in my own way because I had not transitioned from civilian life back home on the block to being held accountable and someone calling me on it,” Green said. But after receiving an NJP, Green was at a crossroads. “I had to give up my pride and take that chip off my shoulder,” Green admitted. “I had people who told me, ‘look, you have the opportunity to change your path.’” Not only did she change direction, but she also set out to help others reach their potential. Green served as a drill instructor with 4th Recruit Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., from 1998 to 2001 and with 3rd Recruit Training Battalion aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif., from 2002 to 2004. “Besides putting fear in recruits, we do a transition there, which gave me an opportunity to mentor them,” Green said. “I said, ‘regardless of where you came from, this is your chance to start all over with a whole new slate. You get to paint your own picture.’” Regardless of the recruit’s social or economic status, Green said she could see a hunger in them that she shared — a drive she hopes will push them to strive for excellence and leadership. Retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Janel Spencer, who served alongside Green since 2006, said Green carries that compassion and leadership with her, whether she’s on the field or in the office. “Her greatest strength is the way she cares,” Spencer said. “Everything that comes across her desk, she acts as if it’s her name on the package, treating it the way she would want to be treated.” For Green, serving others is the best way to lead. “The best leadership advice I received was to take care of the people on your left and right,” Green said. “I was always told, if you take care of your Marines, they’ll take care of you.” Although Green has nearly 23 years of service under her belt, plans of retirement aren’t in her near future. Instead she continues to push the bar in achievements and service. Although Green has reached one of the highest enlisted ranks in the Corps, she is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at University of Maryland University College. Off-duty, Green volunteers at Big Brothers Big Sisters, the nation’s largest volunteer-supported mentoring network. “I look at all that I’ve accomplished and where I came from — just a little girl from North Little Rock, Ark. — and think, wow!” Green said. “None of this would have happened without the military but I had to see what was out there and go for it.”