CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
When Jerry L. Cole retired from the Marine Corps after 29 years he continued to work with Marines as a substance abuse prevention specialist at the Consolidated Substance Abuse Counseling Center aboard Camp Pendleton.
Throughout his career as a Marine his main focus was his Marines and their welfare, and trying to be the best Marine he could be in order to set the example others would strive to emulate.
“You begin to develop a sense of clarity for why you do what you do, and [your purpose],” said Cole. “Once you gain that clarity, it magnifies the drive that you have.”
He found his drive at the rank of gunnery sergeant while he was training young Marines.
“It was my desire to lead, to set the example, to actually display the leadership traits and principles, and say ‘I’m the guy you want to follow’,” said Cole.
Early in his career, he built bombs and chemical weapons in the ordnance community; he then spent five years on the drill field advancing from junior drill instructor to a battalion sergeant major at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego within his two tours.
“The most rewarding part of my job always has been working with Marines,” said Cole. “Training Marines is incredible, there’s nothing better than that.”
When he retired from the Marine Corps in 2006 he didn’t take any time off. Instead of putting on the uniform he wore for so many years, he put on a collared shirt and khakis; and instead of the squared away Marines he worked with before, it was with the Marines who have gotten themselves in situations and need guidance and help.
“He brought a lot of leadership with him, and he really knows and understands the Marines and the organization,” said John Veneziano, the director of the Substance Abuse Counseling Center. “He truly understands how leadership works and what good leadership is. He was told about the job right before his retirement and put in his application. He didn’t waste any time. He retired on a Friday and came to work that Monday.”
In Cole’s line of work, he educates Marines on the consequences that can arise from substance use and abuse, preventative measures, and providing counseling to Marines who are having a hard time dealing with substance abuse, or have gotten into trouble as a result of it.
Although he has kept busy, he made time to focus on his family life as well. His wife of over 35 years, Mely, is a dedicated mother, wife and homemaker. They have 3 sons together; Christopher, who is the human resources manager for a large corporation in the Bay area; Steven, who works as a teacher’s assistant with children living in foster care in Los Angeles; and David, who is a director of a program that provides treatment for children with special needs in Newcastle, Australia.
Cole has been with the Substance Abuse Program for the past 11 years. Even though he is eligible for retirement in this portion of his career he continues to work for the mere fact that he truly loves his job.
“I stepped out of that uniform, but I get to work with CO’s, XO’s, Sergeants Major, and most importantly, the junior Marines,” said Cole. “It’s pretty cool. I get the opportunity to right what I believe are wrongs. I plan to do at least five more years here. I’m retirement eligible here now, but I want to work until I’m 62 as long as I can keep up. I really enjoy what I do. If I get to the point that I don’t enjoy what I do anymore or I don’t see it benefitting anyone, then I’ve surpassed my usefulness. If I get that feeling, then I’ll know it’s time to hang it up and put the retirement papers in. After that I’ll be retiring in the Philippines.”