ARLINGTON, Va. – "A leader must be willing to change, and make change," retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, former secretary of defense, once said. For Cpl. Eduardo Bello-Resendiz, that willingness inspired him to transition from Marine to Army National Guardsman during an oath administered by Mattis.
Aug. 18 was supposed to represent closure for Bello-Resendiz. He was nearing the end of his six-year enlistment with the Marine Corps and his unit was being deactivated at a ceremony at the National Guard Joint Training Facility in Yakima, Washington. However, the occasion unexpectedly presented him with a second beginning in his military career when he learned about the National Guard's Marine2Guard program from a recruiter at the ceremony.
"The deactivation ceremony followed by the enlistment of Cpl. Bello-Resendiz was symbolic for the M2G process on a national level," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Vincent, his Army National Guard M2G transition counselor.
Vincent also coordinated Mattis' involvement. "The fact Gen. Mattis participated in the event gave extra blessing or permission for these Marines to throw on a new uniform to continue their service to country," he said.
Before the ceremony, Vincent approached the plain-clothed former four-star general, whose brother was a former member of the deactivating unit. He asked him to swear the newly transitioned Soldier into the Guard. Mattis said he would be honored as long as it was OK with the Marine.
"Cpl. Bello-Resendiz was shocked, excited, and almost speechless but finally managed to respond with, 'Are you serious? He is here? He said he would?'" said Vincent. Vincent responded, "Absolutely killer, do you want him to do the oath for you?" Bello-Resendiz' emphatic response was, "Hell yeah, of course!"
The significance of Mattis' participation was not lost on the Marines in Bello-Resendiz' unit, either. One of his fellow Marines told him these things happen only once in a lifetime.
"They were saying I was so lucky, and they were jealous of me," said Bello-Resendiz. "They were so pumped."
He added that he is excited to not only begin his Guard career but also to learn a new military occupation. The program offered him the opportunity to work toward his goal of becoming a civilian police officer.
There are 68 Marine Corps military occupational specialties (MOS) that directly translate into the Guard without any required retraining. But for Marines like Bello-Resendiz, who want to learn a new skill, there are also opportunities to change their MOS.
It began as a pilot program in 2016 and came fully online in 2018. It was conceived by Lt. Col. Bruce Delaporte, a former Marine, who was the senior operations officer for the Army National Guard's Strength Maintenance Division.
"The idea was, it is much better to bring in someone with prior service and training into the Guard," said Delaporte. "We look for opportunities to bring prior service, both from the Army and also the Marine Corps, and other branches."
Now, when a Marine prepares to separate from active service, an Army National Guard career counselor will brief them on myriad opportunities available to them through the Army National Guard. The new program serves to not only highlight a new realm of opportunity for transitioning Marines but also to strengthen the National Guard.
"This program has been the best way I have found in giving back to the Marine Corps for the honor, courage, and commitment it reinforced into my life," said Vincent. "The Marines/Soldiers who participate find comfort in the fact the partnership between the two branches of service is what helps keep the Guard strong with young, qualified and hungry future leaders.
For Bello-Resendiz, the program was so enticing that he enlisted the same day he learned about it.
His enthusiasm to start a new chapter of his military career was reinforced by Mattis, who he said encouraged him and told him to continue to do great things. But, even without the added bonus of Mattis' quasi-celebrity cameo, he was sold on the program.
"I would definitely recommend it for those Marines who are planning on getting out soon," said Bello-Resendiz. "This is a great opportunity for them to go on with their regular life and also be serving at the same time."
M2G is open to both enlisted Soldiers and officers.