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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

A sojourn from member to president

By Cpl. Christopher Duncan | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | December 11, 2012

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Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left,  congratulates Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after presenting the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States.

Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, congratulates Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after presenting the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States. (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Duncan)


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Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, congratulates Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after presenting the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States.

Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, congratulates Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after presenting the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States. (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Duncan)


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Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, was presented with a Single Marine Program T-shirt by Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after Coglianese awarded the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States and Christovale is his senior enlisted advisor.

Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, was presented with a Single Marine Program T-shirt by Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after Coglianese awarded the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States and Christovale is his senior enlisted advisor. (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Duncan)


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Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, and Sgt. Maj. Derrick Christovale, right, pose with Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after presenting the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States and Christovale is his senior enlisted advisor.

Brig. Gen. Vincent A. Coglianese, left, and Sgt. Maj. Derrick Christovale, right, pose with Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall here Dec. 6 after presenting the staff sergeant with a Navy Achievement Medal and a plaque for his service in various positions in the base’s Single Marine Program. Blacknall serves as a radio technician with the 11th Marine Regiment here. Coglianese is the base commanding general and regional authority for five military installations in the Southwestern United States and Christovale is his senior enlisted advisor. (Photo by Cpl. Christopher Duncan)


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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The room was silent save a breeze that was shaking a window. Marines stood at attention as the brigadier general’s hands extended a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to the staff sergeant’s left breast pocket.

An inscribed, onyx plaque followed: “With Sincere Appreciation to SSgt Jamal K Blacknall ...”

An officer finished reading the tablet’s etchings, “… For your dedication, devotion and leadership to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton’s Single Marine Program.”

The Marines erupted into applause, acknowledging the 11th Marine Regiment radio technician’s contributions to the base.

The Single Marine Program offers recreation and community-outreach activities for Marines and sailors. And while many take advantage of the program’s benefits, travel and entertainment, only a few motivators get involved in the program’s planning and management. Rarer still is a nearly six-year commitment like that of Staff Sgt. Jamal K. Blacknall.

“I was a corporal who was like a lot of other Marines: bored, living in the barracks and looking for something to do,” said Blacknall, a North Carolina native. “I knew another corporal who was in the SMP, and one day he asked if I’d like to go to one of their monthly meetings.”

After experiencing the program and attending regular meetings, Blacknall took on more and  more responsibility, and after a position opened up, he soon became 11th Marine Regiment’s representative.

Noticing Blacknall’s commitment last beyond a year, base program manager Eddie Hadly said he challenged Blacknall “to step up and become a member of the council.”

Hadly said Blacknall ran with it.

Beginning as a scribe documenting meeting minutes, Blacknall progressed through the organization. “Despite my horrible handwriting,” he said. He later became the social-media coordinator, updating web sites with pictures, posts, and comment responses.

His next position was that of volunteer coordinator, which he called “a great opportunity.”

“I had to come up with volunteer events for the Marines in the program to attend. For this role, you have to think outside the box,” said Blacknall.

He became the base program’s vice president in 2011 and its president in 2012.

“As the president, you’re doing all of the same things required by the other positions, as well as being the face of the program, and you have to make all of the major appearances,” said Blacknall. Moreover, the president is responsible for appointing new members and holding monthly, quarterly, regional and yearly meetings.

“He’s done so much as the president of our counsel,” said Hadly. “We only have six coordinators for the whole base, and he took on that responsibility on many occasions where he would not only organize events but acquire tickets, distribute them and even provide transportation himself for all of the Marines attending.”

With orders for a new assignment away from Camp Pendleton, Blacknall is stepping down as president. The move, he said, will be bittersweet.

“We just elected a new president, and I know that I’m leaving the program in great hands,” said Blacknall. “I’d like to see the program continue to succeed. I’ve put so much into it and have seen so many others grow with the program, and now I want to pass the torch and let the new corporals and sergeants make it even better than I thought possible.”


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