USS ESSEX, At Sea (July 10, 2009) – --
Twelve years ago, a young recruit, like hundreds before him, stood as straight and tall as he could manage, while doing his best to get through his first day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. His senior drill instructor walked briskly into the squad bay and he was struck with a mixture of admiration and intimidation reserved only for those with the fortitude to test themselves by joining the ranks of the Corps.
These days that recruit is known as Gunnery Sgt. Pedro Abreu and he recently stood proudly and tall in front of his former senior-drill instructor during a promotion ceremony held aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), July 1.
Abreu and Master Sgt. Richard M. Hadley, both from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 Reinforced (HMM-262 REIN), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit(MEU), have known each other for quite some time.
Abreu and Hadley recall their first meeting.
“When I first went through boot camp, I thought my senior drill instructor was larger than life and very intimidating,” said Abreu.
Hadley remembered Abreu as a good recruit, but was always the first in line to get yelled at since his name started with the letter ‘A.’
Abreu graduated from boot camp in March 1997, and continued on to pursue a career in the avionics field as an aircraft electrician.
A decade later, Abreu was getting ready to deploy to Iraq when he ran into his former drill instructor at a post office at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, Okinawa, Japan.
Moments after seeing him Hadley said, “Recruit Abreu, where you headed?”
According to Abreu, he was completely caught off guard by the encounter.
“He recognized me immediately, but I did not recognize him until he did something with his hat that he always did at boot camp,” said Abreu. “The master sergeant lifted his cover and brushed his hair with his hand one time, then continued talking. Once he did that all the memories of boot camp came flowing back.
The two spent a moment catching up and then went their separate ways.
After returning from Iraq, Abreu discovered that his former D.I. was checking into the same unit (HMM 262 REIN). He remembers feeling that same intimidation he felt during boot camp, but it went away quickly.
“I was a little nervous when we started working together, but later on I started to notice how proud he was of me. He would bring friends around and say ‘This used to be one of my recruits. He is now a staff sergeant,’” said Abreu.
The duo continued to work together for the next two years as part of the Flying Tigers’ nerve center, overseeing the maintenance of its aircraft. During that time they experienced a kind of role reversal as Abreu passed on his knowledge of CH-46 avionics to Hadley.
Hadley said, “I was following the natural progression of most aviation Marines who reach master sergeant. I was coming from a ground support engineer background to become a maintenance chief for HMM-262 (REIN), but Abreu had been working on aircraft his entire career, so he taught me a lot these past two years.”
And just recently Hadley’s pride in his former recruit became very apparent when he learned that Abreu was being promoted and he was requested to be the one to pin on Abreu’s new chevrons.
“He was more excited about my promotion than I was.” said Abreu.
Hadley added, “I can’t lie. I felt like a proud papa. I think it’s really awesome to think I may have had something to do with (his continued success in the Marine Corps).”
However, both Marines did express some regret that Abreu’s family could not be present for the promotion.
Now, the two Marines and the rest of the MEU continue preparing to partake in Exercise Talisman Saber 2009 (TS’09).