MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
On Aug. 14, Marine Corps Systems Command celebrated the illustrious career of Sgt. Maj. Robin Fortner, who retired after 30 years of service.
MCSC bid farewell to Fortner, the command’s sergeant major from January 2018 to August 2020, and welcomed Sgt. Maj. Michael Cato in a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that adhered to recommended social distancing guidelines.
Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, MCSC commander, opened the ceremony by thanking those in attendance, including previous sergeants major. The commander spoke about Fortner’s strengths as a Marine, and how her unyielding support to Fleet Marines over the years should be commended.
“She invited a diverse and wide array of opinions from Marines, Sailors, civilians and executives,” said Pasagian. “It’s important to harness human talent, and Sgt. Maj. Fortner has done that. She has a rare ability to draw talent and conversation.”
Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for information, served as the event’s retiring official. She spoke about her interactions with Fortner. Years ago, Reynolds and Fortner worked together while stationed in Parris Island, South Carolina.
“If you look at her career, it’s job after job of transforming young people into Marines, and then loving them and taking care of them,” said Reynolds. “Many Marines who’ve interacted with her are trying to meet the standard she has set. Robin Fortner is leaving behind a better Marine Corps.”
A Brooklyn, New York, native, Fortner enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1990. During her career, she has held various billets, including supply chief, drill instructor, primary marksmanship instructor and others. Fortner supported Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Fortner took an active role in preserving the legacy of female Marines through two monumental ceremonies celebrating women in the Corps. She also represented the Marine Corps in several diversity efforts and was hand-selected to serve as a senior enlisted advisor for the first unit integrating women in combat roles.
She served MCSC as an exceptional leader, advocate, mentor and teammate, according to Pasagian. Fortner’s inspiring leadership and communication skills built and sustained a solid foundation of trust, mission improvement and success within the command.
While at MCSC, Fortner made an effort to increase communication between the Fleet Marine Force and MCSC. She’d travel to military installations across the globe to interact with Marines, inform them of the command’s mission and educate them on ways to be part of the acquisition process.
Fortner was also a driving force behind the launching of Equipment Feedback Portal.
“If you don’t know what SYSCOM does, you’re in the dark,” Fortner said. “This command is a well-kept secret. If you want to make a difference, that’s one of the command’s to do that with. SYSCOM is my heart and will always be my heart.”
In her speech, Fortner also commended her family for their support over the years. As she explained, she wouldn’t have made it to this point without the love and support of her children, and the inspiring advice of her late mother. She also spoke to her emotions of retiring from the Marine Corps.
“When I take this uniform off today, I know for a fact I’m not leaving the Marine Corps, because I’ll always be a Marine” she said. “I’m going back into society a better person, a better citizen, because of the Corps.”
Cato assumes the role of MCSC’s sergeant major. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in April 1994 and has served in roles ranging from drill instructor at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot in San Diego, California, to sergeant major of the Marine Air Control Group 18 with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan. Like Fortner, Cato also supported OIF and OEF.
“I am humbled, honored and excited to serve as sergeant major of Marine Corps Systems Command,” said Cato. “I look forward to ensuring that the systems, equipment and ammunition makes its way to the warfighter so that we can continue to engage the enemy. I look forward to meeting each and every one of you, and I also look forward to the continued success of Systems Command.”