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Face of Defense: Civilian Layoff Led to Colonel’s Military Career

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Thomas W. Provost
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP HANSEN, Japan, April 21, 2009 – Twenty-five years ago, Chris A. Lamson was just an average Texan in his early 20s with an average job at an oil refinery supporting his family.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Col. Chris A. Lamson, 3rd Marine Logistics Group chief of staff, believes a good leader is involved in the operations of a unit, whether leading a section or battalion. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Thomas W. Provost
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

But remaining average was not in his future. After being laid off in 1982, with a wife and baby to support, he needed a job. That is when his wife, Nancy, who came from a strong military family, proposed the idea of joining the military.

Although Lamson, who is now a Marine Corps colonel and chief of staff for 3rd Marine Logistics Group, was hesitant about joining, in retrospect, he is glad he did.

"Getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me," Lamson said. "It brought me to the Marine Corps."

Lamson was 23 when he first inquired about the Corps through a local recruiter. He was turned away because of his then-inadequate athletic physique. He couldn't run very well, couldn’t do any pull-ups and barely could do any sit-ups. With the help of his wife, who supported and motivated him to get into shape, he began training until he met the physical demands required to apply for an officer's commission.

"I ran a physical fitness test three times a day to get my score high enough to qualify, and studied harder to get my grade-point average up," Lamson said. "Being told you are not good enough, for anything, is a real wake-up call."

Lamson went on to graduate from Lamar University and received his commission as a second lieutenant. As a young officer, he began to understand that good planning and leadership were key to being above average. He soon adopted a social leadership style he adopted from a not-so-average person.

"Abraham Lincoln was often seen interacting with his subordinate commanders at battlefield camps during the Civil War," Lamson said. "It shows commanders care about their subordinates." It embodies the long-standing tradition that Marines "take care of their own," he added.

Lamson often visits motor pools and got under trucks and Humvees with the mechanics, and he talked with them as they worked -- not to help them with their job, he said, but to learn more about his Marines and their contributions to the unit.

"He always finds the time to come out and interact with the little people," said Marine Corps Cpl. Santori D. Scott, driver for the 3rd MLG’s commanding general. "He is never too busy to come out and talk."

Lamson said he believes interacting with subordinates will help to develop a personal rapport and inspire their following, a very important part of leadership.

"Whether you are leading a section or you are a lieutenant colonel commanding a battalion, you have got to get up from behind the desk and walk around," Lamson said. A good leader, he noted, is involved in the unit’s operations.

Lamson has held to that philosophy through many changes in the Corps. When he first hit the Fleet Marine Force, the Marine Corps did not have e-mail or computers. Typewriters, message papers known as “yellow canaries,” and the rotary telephone were the primary forms of communication, he said.

Still, he added, the Marine Corps hasn’t changed that much in the last 25 years. The heart of the Corps, he said, always will be honor, courage, commitment and taking care of Marines.

"The Marine Corps will always stand for the same thing," he said.

Lamson credited the support of his family with enabling him to reach this point in his life, where he now considers himself completely successful, and he also stressed the importance of long-term goal planning.

"Setting goals early on and developing a plan is very important to succeed in life," he said. "It gets harder to attain what you want in life the longer you wait. Plans may change, but it is having those goals to work toward that is important."

Ultimately, the colonel said, his goal is to nestle into a not-so-average dream house that includes an outdoor kitchen with a barbecue large enough to roast a pig.

So it seems the native Texan who traveled the world leading Marines from Virginia to Iraq, from the Carolinas to Japan, will return to society as a not-so-average guy.

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Thomas W. Provost serves with Marine Corps Bases Japan.)

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