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Col. Doarin Lewis, front right, presents Master Sgt. Carlos Middlebrooks and other Marines from Camp Foster’s Mess Hall 488 with an “Unsung Hero” award Friday for the support they’ve given to the 3rd Transportation Support Battalion.
Col. Doarin Lewis, front right, presents Master Sgt. Carlos Middlebrooks and other Marines from Camp Foster’s Mess Hall 488 with an “Unsung Hero” award Friday for the support they’ve given to the 3rd Transportation Support Battalion. (Fred Zimmerman / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Some say a simple “thank you” or “job well done” can make a world of difference to someone. A Marine Corps unit here has taken it to the next level with a monthly award program to thank its Marines and sailors for going the extra mile.

The 3rd Transportation Support Battalion identifies those who deserve extra recognition through its “Unsung Hero” award. In addition to a certificate, recipients of the award get various AAFES coupons and a commander’s coin.

The unit’s commanding officer, Col. Doarin Lewis, said the idea was born at a meeting with staff noncommissioned officers and officers of the unit.

“We just thought ‘What can we do to make the battalion better?’” Lewis said. “We came up with the Unsung Hero.”

Every month, one noncommissioned officer is recognized from each company within the battalion. Lewis said the unit also recognizes one staff NCO out of the entire battalion.

“We call that our senior-citizen award,” he joked.

The award is given to those who do more than what’s required of them, Lewis said, whether that’s volunteering in the community or putting in extra hours at work.

Lance Cpl. Robert McGuin, a wrecker operator in the unit and a recent award recipient, said he’s driven more than 600 miles in the last month while training Marines for licenses for various trucks and equipment.

“It’s not every day that somebody pats you on the back for doing your job,” said McGuin, who has received the award twice. “It’s nice that somebody is paying attention to what you do … it does actually help motivate you.”

Lewis said it’s important to make Marines and sailors feel appreciated.

“So often people get treated like they’re disposable … people use you and throw you away,” he said. “And too often, it’s only the bad stuff you hear about. We want to make sure the Marines and sailors in our companies are getting public recognition for the right things they do.”

Last Friday, the unit took time to recognize Mess Hall 488 on Camp Foster and Camp Kinser’s Installation Personnel Administration Center for their support. This was the first time offices outside the battalion have been recognized, Lewis said. “The only time you hear about them is when something goes wrong — but we wanted to publicly recognize these people for their support,” he said.

The Kinser IPAC has been working hard and staying open late to ensure members of the unit are administratively ready to deploy, Lewis said, and the mess hall has always been there to support his Marines and sailors by providing them with good, healthy meals.

After the ceremony, Master Sgt. Carlos Middlebrooks, Mess Hall 488 manager, thanked Lewis and said: “I’ve been in the Marine Corps for 23 years and I’ve never seen an award given like that.”

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