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Master Gunnery Sgt. Roland Salinas, the operations chief for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, greets fellow Marines during his retirement ceremony at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 13, 2010. Master Gunnery Sgt. served 30 years of active duty service as an infantryman.

Photo by GySgt William Greeson

True MEU: Marine caps 30-year expeditionary career

13 Aug 2010 | Cpl. Elyssa Quesada

After 30 years and 13 deployments – and tours with all seven of the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Units – one Marine celebrated his retirement here, Aug. 13.

From serving in Marine Amphibious Units to what are today’s Marine Expeditionary Units, Master Gunnery Sgt. Roland Salinas said he regrets not one moment in the Marine Corps.

"It really is a bittersweet feeling. I'm ready to go, but there's a lot I’ll miss," said Salinas, whose last position was serving as operations chief for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“He has served faithfully at the tip of the spear for a long time,” said Col. Michael R. Hudson, the unit’s commanding officer. “We wish him and his family well as they close one chapter and begin another.”

Salinas said he plans to remain in California beyond retirement.

He stepped on the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in 1980. It was a family tradition.  

"I enlisted because my father was a Marine, and so were my older brothers," said Salinas.

Still in high school, the San Antonio native, at 17, got his parents' permission to join.

He graduated from boot camp in San Diego and the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and as a machine gunner, he reported to the Marine detachment aboard USS Enterprise.

Salinas grinned as he reminisced about the pace of deployments in the 1980s when, he said, the operational tempo was much different.

Fast-forward two decades, and by 2000, Salinas had deployed 10 times and traveled the world, visiting more than 20 countries.

Col. Eric Smith, who served with Salinas in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004, described Salinas as a stand-up guy, always out and about observing the units. Smith, who was the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, said Salinas truly ran the center for combat operations and day-to-day battalion operations.

According to his peers, Salinas’ duties in his later deployments could have been relegated to time spent behind a desk, but he pounced on opportunities to get out of the operations center and be with other riflemen.

"I remember the first time he got to go out on patrol,” said Sgt. Maj. Charles Blumenberg, who served with Salinas in Ar Ramadi. “He was a happy camper.”  

Salinas summed up his gratitude for serving alongside Marines by sighing.

"He could have spent the last three years at a desk job, but he didn't," Smith said. "He stepped up and deployed … again. He's getting out there, deploying and getting after it until the last day of his active duty."

After a career serving under seven commanders-in-chief and eight commandants, that last day was today.

 “It is a privilege to have served with and to be the retiring official for one of the pillars of our amphibious community,” said Hudson. “He leaves us today, but his legacy is reflected in the young Marines that have picked up the banner of amphibious operations.”

In parade fashion before two platoons of Marines, a color guard and the 1st Marine Division Band, Salinas was decorated with a Meritorious Service Medal, his second; thanked in letters by the president, the commandant of the Marine Corps and the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, respectively, and presented with an American flag.

As the command marched in review, Salinas cut his final salute, stood at attention and took in the Marines’ Hymn, played in his honor.

Three decades as a Marine, capped.


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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit