Photo Information

Sgt. Maj. John McGovern passes his sword to Col. Francis Donovan, the commanding officer of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, during a relief and appointment ceremony Sept. 28, at the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Building. During the ceremony McGovern relinquished his position as the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s sergeant major to Sgt. Maj. Octaviano Gallegos.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Petersheim

24th MEU bids farewell to Sgt. Maj. John McGovern

28 Sep 2011 | Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

Sgt. Maj. John McGovern relinquished his duties as the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s sergeant major to Sgt. Maj. Octaviano Gallegos during a relief and appointment ceremony Sept. 28, at the II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Building.

McGovern, a Daytona Beach, Fla., native, took up the position as the 24th MEU sergeant major in July 2009. After assuming the position he participated in a six-month workup, which led to his deployment with the MEU from January through August 2010.

A highlight of this deployment according to McGovern was the mission of supporting earthquake relief operations in Haiti after a devastating earthquake killed hundreds of thousands of people just as the MEU was loading ships to deploy.

“It was an amazing experience,” McGovern said. “Watching the Marines not expecting to immediately go and do a (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief) mission, and then doing it.”

During the operation, dubbed Operation Unified Response, the 24th MEU helped deliver 8,783 bags of rice, 30,000 bottles of water, 117,000 individual meals and 2,600 pounds of medical supplies to earthquake survivors in Haiti. The MEU departed Haiti the first week of February to continue on its deployment where they conducted exercises throughout the Central Command area of operations traveling to places like Djibouti, Kuwait, Oman and Jordan.

“That’s a major accomplishment to me,” he said. “Being able to go out and do anything and everything we’re tasked – it’s what a MEU does.”

During the ceremony, McGovern addressed the Marines and Sailors in attendance.

“As a sergeant major, it is always and will always be about you all,” he said. “Everything and anything I’ve ever done is about you all.”

McGovern said his greatest accomplishment while serving with the MEU is the interactions he had with the junior Marines and Sailors he worked with.

“The interaction of being with all the Marines and Sailors here, being able to look at them, talk to them about any subject,” he said. “I hope they were able to say ‘hey I can talk to him’ at any time. I believe that happened, talking to a lot of Marines as they came and went through the MEU.”

“I’ve loved every moment I’ve spent with the Marines and Sailors on the MEU,” he said.

McGovern is scheduled to assume responsibilities as the sergeant major of Marine Corps Forces, Central Command.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the next level of leadership in the Marine Corps and how that affects the Marines,” he said.

The incoming sergeant major, Gallegos, is coming from 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, a unit that returned from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in July. Gallegos also spoke during the ceremony.

“I just got back in July - my sea bag is still packed. I guarantee three things, my hard work, my loyalty and my dedication to you (the MEU commanding officer) and the Marines,” he said.