Sergeant Major Robert E. Cleary assumed the post of Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on 28 June 1983.
Sergeant Major Cleary was born in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, on 2 June 1931, and graduated from Holyoke Trade High School in May 1949. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 24 October 1951.
He underwent recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina, then attended a nine-week Demolition Specialist Course at Schools Battalion, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, where he was promoted to private first class. Upon completion of the school, he was assigned as the Battalion Demolition Specialist, Company B, 7th Engineer Battalion at Camp Pendleton, California. Promoted to corporal, he remained with the 7th Engineer Battalion until April 1953.
Sergeant Major Cleary transferred overseas, where he joined the 1st Marine Division in Korea, as a Squad Leader and Right Guide with Company I, 3d Battalion. While in this assignment, he was promoted to sergeant. Returning from overseas, he reported to the 1st Rifle Company at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center, Springfield, Massachusetts. In early 1958, he returned to Camp Pendleton, for duty as a military policeman with the Military Police Company.
In May 1958, he was promoted to staff sergeant, and continued to serve in this assignment until April 1961, when he transferred to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, for duty as a drill instructor.
Upon completion of his tour as a drill instructor, Sergeant Major Cleary joined Headquarters and Service Company, 2d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, for duty as a Section Leader, and later, Platoon Sergeant in the 81mm Motor Platoon. During February 1965, he transferred to H&S Company, 3d Battalion, 3d Marine Division, as a Platoon Sergeant and Platoon Leader in the Anti-Assault Platoon.
This assignment was followed by his first tour in Vietnam as a Platoon Leader, Company G, 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, 3d Marine Division, where he was promoted to gunnery sergeant. In August 1966, he transferred to Company F, 2d Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, for duty as Company Gunnery Sergeant. For his combat service in Vietnam, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, and two awards of the Purple Heart.
He returned to San Diego for a short tour as a drill instructor in August 1967, at which time he was selected for promotion to first sergeant. He was reassigned to the 27th Marines as the Company First Sergeant. During March 1968, he returned to Vietnam, serving as the First Sergeant of Battery C, 1st LAAM Battalion, MACC-19, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Subsequently, he served as Company First Sergeant of Company G, 28th Marine Regiment.
Sergeant Major Cleary then reported to H&S Company, 2d Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, as the Company First Sergeant, followed by his third tour in Vietnam as the Squadron Sergeant Major of HMM-165, MAG-36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
Upon his return from overseas, in May 1973, he was assigned to VMA-223, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, Yuma, Arizona, where he attained his present grade and served as the Squadron Sergeant Major. In September, he was reassigned to the 2d LAAM Battalion, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, as the Battalion Sergeant Major.
He reported to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, DC., in September 1974, for duty as the Battalion Sergeant Major of Marine Security Guard Battalion, followed by duty as Personnel Sergeant Major. His next assignment was as the 3d Marine Division Sergeant Major in July 1979, then returned to Marine Security Guard Battalion as Battalion Sergeant Major.
On 1 January 1982, Sergeant Major Cleary was selected as the Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Development and Education Command in Quantico, Virginia. He was selected as the 10th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps on 25 May 1983, and assumed the post on 28 June 1983.
His personal decorations consist of the Silver Star Medal; three Air Medals; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V”, and gold star in lieu of a second award; Navy Achievement Medal; two Purple Hearts; and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps 28 June 1983 – 26 June 1987
Re-printed with the authorization of the United States Marine Corps History Division