John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Enlisting in the Marine Corps changed the life of Gunnery Sgt. Eugene R. Bryant, operations chief, Recruiting Station Pittsburgh, who continues to develop his leadership through his passions, mentoring and physical fitness.
Bryant is from Oxford, Maine. Oxford is a town with a population of a little more than 4000 people. There, Bryant attended Oxford Hills High School, played football and had aspirations to continue to do so in college. Bryant was involved in diverse activities. He was involved in Distributive Education Clubs of America, an international association of marketing students, which provides members and advisors with development activities. During his senior year, he placed first in the retail merchandising category at the state level. As a consequence, he got the chance to compete at the national level in Orlando.
The competition was simple. Participants were given a scenario and they had to verbally communicate the solution to the problem. Bryant didn’t win the national competition, but the experience was eye opening.
“The competition at nationals was a lot stiffer. The best kids for each category for each state from across the nation were there,” said 37-year-old Bryant. “Up until that point, I had never left my home town.”
According to Bryant, he realized his hard work opened other opportunities. He realized he wanted to travel and wanted to seek bigger opportunities for himself and his family. One of his friends had enlisted and so, Bryant decided to take a chance with a Marine recruiter.
“I wanted to be in shape. I wanted to continue to be athletic. I wanted the opportunity to travel,” said Bryant. “The Marine Corps offered me everything that I wanted; it was an easy decision.”
His decision paid off for what he wanted to do; he got the chance to travel half-way around the world. After recruit training, Bryant received orders to Iwakuni, Japan as his first duty station as a Supply Warehouse Marine. During his time in Japan, Bryant would find his calling. The supply chief, his supervisor at the time, announced that there was an opportunity to volunteer at the on-base school helping out in the 6th-grade class.
“I have always had the passion to teach and inspire youth,” said Bryant. “When the opportunity came about, and because the kids and I had a good connection, I spent more time there than I really had to.”
According to Bryant, he originally was not selected to help out at the school, but he fought for his chance. He helped out with spelling tests, homework and other assignments in the classroom.
“I was frustrated when I wasn’t picked at first. I told him (his supervisor) that this is something that I’ve always wanted the opportunity to do. It’s probably what I will do after the Marine Corps and I really wanted the opportunity,” said Bryant. “It was probably one of the greatest experiences of my entire life.”
After his tour in Japan, he changed duty stations to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. During this time, he was assigned as the Training noncommissioned officer for (Unit). He was in tasked of scheduling the training for all Marines within his unit including the Body Conditioning Platoon, which is tasked with helping Marines struggling with weight and physical conditioning problems and tracking their progress through the program.
“It was memorable for me because I always strive to impact others and help Marines with their careers,” said Bryant. “It also gave me the opportunity to work out and do everything that I wanted to do—weightlifting and running.”
In 2002, Bryant was set to deploy with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, but received orders to report to recruiting duty. According to Bryant, he hated the fact because he had participated in all the pre-deployment exercises and was ready to go, but his orders were final. At the time, recruiting was the least preferable duty to him; it was the last thing he wanted to do in the Marine Corps. He wanted to be a drill instructor instead.
After he graduated from Recruiter School in San Diego in 2002, he was assigned to Recruiting Station Portsmouth, in particular to Quincy, Massachusetts. While in Massachusetts, Bryant forged relationships with the poolees (those training to be ready for recruit training) and their families because of his dedication to do anything within his power to ensure their success in recruit training and in life. In, May of 2007, he decided to become a career recruiter in order to mentor Marines and the young men and women who choose to become Marines.
“Out of all the Marines I work with, he definitely embodies the vision of selflessness and has contributed to the professional development of the Marines he works with. Not just his subordinates, but also his junior officers; he has mentored me several times,” said Capt. Steven A. Valenti, operations officer, Recruiting Station Pittsburgh. “I have seen him go to a pool function (where future Marines train to be physically ready for recruit training) and completely take over because he garnered the respect of the poolees with his physical abilities and his leadership. Nobody wanted to be there at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday morning, but Gunnery Sergeant Bryant changed that—he led by example—by beating everyone and the leadership knowledge he brought to the table.”
To Bryant, recruiting is more than just meeting his mission. He said, “I enjoy the way I impact young kids by helping them enlist in the Marine Corps. I enjoy the relationships I have built with their families and the kids themselves; some of which I continue to have today.”
Along with helping others, Bryant further developed his other passion, physical fitness, in particular running. In 2007, Bryant suffered an injury to his right bicep tendon, which required surgery. The recovery timetable was six months. Thus, he could not lift any weight for that period.
“I remember three weeks went by and I started going crazy, thinking I have to do something to get exercise,” said Bryant.
According to Bryant, he began walking because of the cast around his arm and, after it came off, he turned to running. Each time he ran a bit further. Then, he decided to train for his first marathon, for which he followed a 16-week preparation guide. He first ran the Hyannis Marathon in Hyannis, Massachusetts in February, 2008.
Since then, he has ran a total of six marathons. However, his biggest challenge will be during this upcoming Fall. Bryant signed up to run a 100-mile run with an organization named Always Brothers. The goal of the run is to run 100 miles as a team that will start in Columbus, Ohio and finish in Mariemont, Ohio.
The organization honors Marine Captain Tyler B. Swisher who died on October 21, 2005, when his vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device near Al Amariyah, Iraq. Swisher was survived by his wife and three kids. The organization, “Always Brothers,” raises money to help the survivors of service members, wounded veterans and their children.
“When I got to Pittsburgh, I wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon, because I was so close to Washington D.C. and was well conditioned from just finishing my tour as an instructor at MCRD San Diego. ‘Always Brothers’ had an open spot and they offered,” said Bryant. “I saw that some of the money raised goes to the children of service members and that is my soft spot because if anything were to ever happen to me, I hope that organizations like this would take care of my son.”
Bryant has started a small social media group where he has combined both of his passions mentoring and physical fitness into one with the hopes that one day he can do it in a much larger scale. He currently runs a Facebook group called “Healthy Lifestyle and Fitness Motivation from an Average Joe (Tank)” where he develops fitness programs for people that have some type of impediment to conduct physical fitness outdoors. For example, if a person recently broke their leg and they are not able to run a mile outside, Bryant helps them develop a program that will maintain their physical fitness.
“A major goal of mine would be to have my own fitness company. I would love to have the opportunity to provide my style of workouts for people of all fitness levels,” said Bryant.
Ultimately Bryant said, he has plans for after he retires from the Corps. If his goal to have a fitness company doesn’t pan out, he wants to find a job where he has an impact in shaping someone’s life for the better, perhaps teaching. However, he would prefer a job where he is affiliated with the military, in some way, to help mentor the younger generations. For now, he will continue to focus on his immediate future tasks to coach his son’s soccer team and prepare for running 100 miles within 24 hours.