MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON -- Sergeant Jason D. Longmire calmly strides down a catwalk away from B Battery, 1st Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment's offices as Marines from the battery "form it up" for the last time before a three-day weekend.
Making his way to his room, Longmire pauses and shouts in an authoritative voice to one of his corporal's to make sure the weekend duty noncommissioned officers are reminded of their responsibilities.
Although it may seem like a simple task, to Longmire, it is one of many new responsibilities he's embraced as B Battery gunnery sergeant for the last two months - a billet rarely filled by a sergeant.
With less than four years in the Corps, Longmire has sliced through the ranks and billets of artillerymen like a hot knife through butter. He was honor graduate of Platoon 3075 at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego in February 1997, and received a certificate of commendation.
Next, the 6-foot, 2-inch, athletically-built Marine battled Marine Combat Training here, emerging victorious again as honor grad, while receiving meritorious mast. Two meritorious masts followed while at artillery school in Ft. Sill, Okla., and he chalked up another honor grad there.
His record speaks for itself, but Longmire admitted all his success came via drastic personal changes.
"The day I went to boot camp, I was terribly out of shape, had no discipline and an 'I don't give a (expletive) attitude,'" said Longmire, a native of Littleton, Colo., and 1994 graduate of the infamous Columbine High School. "The only things I cared about was my family and girlfriend, because I was irresponsible."
Two weeks into boot camp, he said he made a decision that changed his life forever - if he was going to do this, he was going to do it right.
"Since then, I'm a totally different person," he said. "The Marine Corps has opened my eyes. I set small goals, then they get bigger and bigger. I'm just getting started."
After high school, Longmire started a career path in criminal justice at Arapahoe Junior College, in Colorado. But after two years of heading in the wrong direction, the blond-haired, blue-eyed Longmire saw the Corps as a way to get back on track.
Not only did he get on track, but Longmire was chosen to go to the Section Chief's Course after being promoted to corporal on a Western Pacific deployment in 1998 with Battalion Landing Team 3/1. The course, normally for staff NCOs, taught him how to be responsible for $1.2 million-worth of gear and the lives of 10 Marines.
Yet, Longmire said the most rewarding and challenging thing he's accomplished in the Corps was graduating from Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school.
"The SERE school gave me the discipline that I thought I had, and I accomplished something so incredible, so impossible," he proclaimed. "When I graduated, I felt like a new Marine."
Longmire said his hard work as a section chief and experience at SERE school gave him the confidence to be at battery gunny. Grabbing the bull by the horns, he does the planning and operations for the entire battery, which has 140 artillerymen. So far, Longmire has executed three live fire shoots, a Nuclear, Biological and Chemical MCCRE and two small arms exercises.
Just as he didn't hesitate to appoint Longmire to battery gunny, Maj. Anthony P. Terlizzi, commanding officer of "B" Battery, 1/11, was fervent about the job the 24-year-old sergeant has done.
"What separates him from others is his maturity, but most of all his willingness to tackle the job," said Terlizzi, who's known Longmire since he came to the battery in February 1999. "He admits when he doesn't know how to do things and learns from his mistakes ... he is a wonderful role model to our young Marines."
Longmire is passionate about being a role model.
"As the battery gunny, I've learned that every Marine is important - private through gunny," Longmire said. "I'm more mature than when I first came into the Corps. These 18-year-old Marines need direction, and it's my job to show them the right path and help them make the right choices."
With the help of a peer, Sgt. Brian Damron, platoon sergeant, Guns Platoon, and a mentor, SSgt. Christoper McNeely, Longmire has absorbed leadership traits from them to create his own style - a formula that has been successful, Terlizzi said.
"What we do more than anyone in the Marine Corps is double-check everything. If we put a round in the wrong place, we kill somebody ... The battery leadership from me on down felt he could do the job, and that is to be a cannoneer. Sergeant Longmire has done a terrific job here."
When Longmire's enlistment ends in six months, his days as a cannoneer will end - for now.
Going back to Colorado to complete college, spend time with his family, and put a ring on his girlfriend Whitney's finger, are future priorities, he said.
"Right now, it's what's best for the Marine Corps, when I get out, it's what's best for her and our family," said Longmire, with a pinch of Copenhagen in his lip, sitting back in his "beer chair" watching baseball on television.
But Longmire doesn't want to close the book completely on his career in the Corps.
"I would love to come back in the Marine Corps with some brass on my collar," he said, confidently.
Regardless of his decision to return, Longmire said the Corps has made a lasting impact on him.
"The Corps has changed my life, attitude and direction. I've learned to respect a lot more people. The Marine Corps gives me that sense of pride only a Marine knows."