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One-time recruit now commands drill instructor in Iraq

28 Jun 2004 | Cpl. Paula M. Fitzgerald

Capt. Wilson S. Leech III knew he had seen Master Sgt. Rod B. Schlosser somewhere before.

Leech, company commander of Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, assumed command of the company the same day Schlosser and the battalion's advance party headed to Iraq earlier this year.

"I went out to see the Marines off and let them know that I was their new commanding officer," said Leech, of Stonington, Conn.

Schlosser, who was a gunnery sergeant at the time, remembered what he thought was his first meeting with Leech.

"He shook my hand and looked at me for a while. Then he asked if I remembered him," explained Schlosser, the company operations chief. "It took me a second, but then I knew he was one of my recruits when I was on the drill field."

The master sergeant initially couldn't pinpoint when he instructed Leech. After Leech asked Schlosser if he remembered Platoon 3165, all the memories came flooding back to Schlosser.

In 1994, Leech joined the Marine Corps and attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. Schlosser had been a drill instructor for almost a year by that time.

It wasn't until both Marines arrived in Kuwait in February that Leech and Schlosser caught back up on old times.

"When I saw him again in Kuwait, I asked him what happened to his big white truck,"
Leech said. "I think he was shocked I still remembered. He about fell over backward."

According to Schlosser, Leech was known as the "old man of the platoon."

Leech chose to join the Corps at the age of 27, after graduating from college and working for a few years.

"He was an older recruit, which made him stick out," Schlosser added. "We used to use him as a training aid for the younger recruits."

Because of his age and maturity level, Leech was given billets with greater responsibility within the platoon. During field days, he was often responsible for getting various areas of the squad bay cleaned.

Leech remembered Schlosser's "Sunday field day Olympics" vividly.

"We'd have to pull all of the racks to the center of the squad bay. Then we'd take our bath towels and clean the floors as fast as we could," Leech said with a laugh. "It was painful, but we had the cleanest squad bay in Lima Company."

Besides being known for his intense cleaning sessions, Leech said Schlosser was also known as the education DI. The "knowledge hat" was responsible for teaching recruits Marine Corps history and customs and courtesies. Schlosser's job was to prepare the recruits for examinations.

"I think he never had anyone fail any of the exams," Leech said. "He ensured that everyone learned the Marine Corps way of life. He was relentless."

After graduating from boot camp, Leech became an infantryman. He was enlisted for four years before earning his commission in 1997. Throughout his career, Leech knew he'd one day run across one of his drill instructors.

"The Marine Corps is so small, you're bound to run into someone," he said. "A few years ago, I saw one of my drill instructors, but that was the only other time."

Schlosser also bumped into a handful of his recruits. He never imagined he'd be working for one of them.

"I knew Captain Leech would be successful," said Schlosser, of Steubenville, Ohio. "He's one of those guys you meet and you don't know what path he'll choose, but you know he'll be successful."

Schlosser added he has yet to meet another one of his recruits who has achieved the kind of success Leech has attained.

"It's been great having him as my company commander. He's a great commanding officer because he uses all of his experience and applies it to his leadership to teach his Marines," Schlosser explained. "It makes me feel good to see a Marine that I was responsible to train become so successful."

Leech said working with his former drill instructor hasn't been as weird as some might think.

Leech said, "Any task I give him, he gets it done. It just goes back to what he taught me in boot camp: to be a professional. He's earned my respect; I just hope I've earned his respect by doing what he taught me."

He also said he couldn't ask for a better Marine to serve with in Iraq. In April, Schlosser was promoted to his current rank.

"It's strange to think that in 1994 Sergeant Schlosser gave me my eagle, globe and anchor," added Leech. "Ten years later I was the one who promoted him to master sergeant."