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MCLB-Albany’s Sgt. Maj. Chad Coston leaves behind legacy of mentorship and support for veterans

Albany Herald - 6/14/2024

ALBANYChad Coston first tried to enlist into the Marine Corps as a ninth-grade high school student.

“It was a family tradition, and I knew what I wanted to do,” Coston said. “But they kicked me out of the office and said, 'You’re too young; come back in three years.'”

When Coston finally was able to enlist on June 1, 1994, he was following in the footsteps of his father, who was a U.S. Marine, and a slew of family members who served in the Army, Air Force and Navy. Coston’s son became the third Marine of the family.

After enlisting, Chad Coston completed Recruit Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. He then attended Assault Amphibian School at Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he was awarded the Military Operation Specialty of 1833 Assault Amphibian Vehicle Crewman.

Coston served three decades in the Marine Corps before deciding to retire. The MCLB-Albany community recently held a special retirement ceremony for him. He was joined by his family at the ceremony – his high school sweetheart and wife of 30 years, his children, grandchildren, in-laws and more.

In 30 years, Coston served a wide array of duties, including Section Leader, Platoon Sergeant, Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor, Training and Readiness Chief with the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion. Eventually, he worked his way up to the highest possible enlisted rank as a unit Sergeant Major.

The rank of Sergeant Major dates back to the 13th century. It’s one of the oldest ranks in history. The responsibilities of the rank are superintendence over a unit’s drill, discipline and administration. It’s a position that requires time-tested expertise.

Coston said he stayed for three decades because he was having fun.

“None of the jobs I had were boring,” he said. “At the end of the day, I just wanted to hone my craft.”

Coston said he remained aware of what he signed up for, and that was to go into combat if needed.

His deployments and operational experience included the Korean Marine Exchange Program, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, UNITAS 2000 and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After his lengthy experience, Coston said he knew he wanted to be a mentor to other Marines. He said the small size of MCLB-Albany helped him to be able to connect with the base community on a deeper level.

“I could really impart my knowledge on those young ones, which for many of them, it’s (MCLB Albany) their first duty station,” he said.

Coston said he wanted to be an approachable leader and advocate for lower-ranking troops.

“I had a lot of bad leaders … and a lot of great leaders coming through the Marine Corps,” he said. “The ones that were great, listened to what I had to say and helped me navigate my career. That’s what I wanted to pass on to others.”

Coston also looked out for veterans during his time in Albany. He’s been a major advocate for the installation of a Veterans Education Career Transition Resource Center in Albany in partnership with Albany Technical College.

Coston was inspired by the VECTR Center in Warner Robins. He said it’s a one-stop shop for veterans, whether they want a place to sit down and connect with other veterans or need access to resources like how to get a driver’s license or career technical courses.

He said it’s important for young military retirees to have a place to go and learn a trade to ensure a job after their service, as many of the technical positions they had while in the military do not equate to a civilian job.

“It’s hard, and we have a lot of jobless vets,” Coston said. “They are more than capable of learning a job and willing to work, they just don’t have the technical skills.”

He said it’s desperately needed in southwest Georgia with such a large veteran population in the area. He said having a VECTR Center in the area also draws retired military.

Coston just completed the SkillBridge program at the VECTR Center in Warner Robins. He’s interviewing to become a Game Warden with the Department of Natural Resources. He’s also been offered an academy date with the LaGrange Police Department and was able to get his HVAC certification at SkillBridge.

Col. Matthew McKinney, MCLB-Albany's Commanding Officer, said Coston will be missed for his humor and his smile.

“He could always turn a bad situation into a manageable situation,” McKinney said of Coston.

McKinney said Coston leaves a major legacy at MCLB-Albany in just the two years he spent there. McKinney said Coston, who was born in Virginia but grew up in Louisiana, is an avid hunter. He initiated hunting and natural resource programs on base that taught Marines kills they may have never tried.

“His biggest impact on the installation was his mentorship of the young Marines and how he helped them grow into functioning adults who can take on future challenges,” McKinney said.

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