Rod Jetton: Remembering a Hero, Part 2 – Trane McCloud, Putting Duty First

(Click Here to read Part 1 of Rod Jetton’s 4 part series: “Losing a Good Friend”)

I remember an old Colonel giving a speech to all the young officer recruits back in boot camp.  He told us about the Marine Corps and what being a Marine was all about.  This talk always stuck in my mind because he said, “There is an easy way and a hard way.  Marines always take the hard way.  Marines don’t take shortcuts; we work harder, fight harder and think smarter.”

This was new to me and seemed wrong.  High school and college was about finding a better and easier way to do everything.  Our teachers and society pushed taking the path of least resistance.  I didn’t know exactly what he meant at first.  The colonel gave examples using past wars where U.S. Marines made tough decisions, and won battles that changed American history.  He pointed out that many times their decisions made it harder on those Marines.  Sometimes, they even lost more lives when faced with a tough choice, but they always accomplished the mission and followed their orders.

I can’t remember the name of the Colonel who gave us that talk, but it might as well have been Trane.  He never took shortcuts.  He always knew what the Marine Corps rules and regulations were, and he always kept us on track.  He was calm and cool in all situations and nothing ever seemed to ruffle his feathers. 

In time, I came to understand better what the Colonel was saying, but I have always been a rebel.  The Marine Corps is hard on rebels.  They want team players that will work hard, follow orders, be smart and do their duty.  That’s why the Corps was so good for me.  I learned to depend on other people.  I learned that, no matter how good I was, if I worked with others I could accomplish much bigger things.  By myself, I was helpless on the battlefield.

By the time I met Trane he already knew these things, and he is a big reason I learned some of these lessons.   Now, I don’t want to paint a picture of Trane as some robot that just said, “Yes, sir.”  He was far from that.  His last name is McCloud, which is Scots-Irish, and he was VERY stubborn.  If you were doing things right he never said much, but if he thought you were not doing it the best way he would calmly give you his thoughts. 

The thing we loved about Trane was he didn’t care if you were a fellow lieutenant or the commanding general, he wasn’t afraid to speak up and correct you.

We had this captain who wasn’t a very good commander.  This drove me crazy, because, back then, I always had a better idea of how to do things and I liked being in charge.  This guy made following orders very difficult for all of us.

As a junior officer, I learned there are a lot of politics in the military.  To be promoted, you have to be ranked high by your commanders.  As you can imagine, this caused a lot of what we called, “butt-kissing” by some officers.  For me, this was no problem. 

I joined the military to help win the first war against Iraq.  By the time I joined the Corps and graduated from officer school the war was won even without my help, Trane had taken care of that.  I was focused on making sure my unit was ready for combat and learning as much as I could that would help me be successful after I finished my four-year tour.  So making a captain or colonel mad wasn’t a big concern for me.

Remember, Trane wanted to stay in the Corps and make a career out of it.  He should have been focused on keeping the commanders happy and getting credit for anything good he could.  But that’s not Trane McCloud.  Trane wanted things done right.  He was a perfectionist.  He had been in a war, and he was more concerned with doing things right than getting promoted.  I worried about him.  He was just the kind of leader we needed to stay in the Corps and be promoted.  Even though I was getting out, my Marine Corps time showed me how important career military professionals are to our country’s security. 

I used to get so frustrated thinking I had to take orders from this Captain who clearly couldn’t lead the local Boy Scout troop in a parade through Marble Hill without messing it up, while a real leader like Trane might not get promoted because he had the courage to question orders and offer suggestions. 

Trane had several hilarious exchanges with the Captain that didn’t go well for the Captain.  We officers loved to watch him confuse the Captain, and I don’t think it helped Trane’s ratings; but fortunately, Trane was promoted and my faith in Corps was restored. 

He had a great career.  After we returned from our six-month float he went to some specialized recon training and went back out with the 24 MUE (Marine Expeditionary Unit) for another six-month float.  As a new captain, he was assigned to be a public affairs officer — he reported news for the Marine Corps and Navy.  During this time, he went back to college and earned a masters degree in Journalism.

Like all Infantry Officers he wanted to get back into the fleet and command Marines.  He was then chosen to be a company commander and soon after was promoted to Major.  As a Major he was assigned to be the Assistant Operations Officer for the 2nd battalion 3rd Marines (2/3).  He then commanded the Marine Security Element for the Joint Special Operations task Force-Pacific in Zamboanga, Republic of the Philippines.

Following his fleet tour he went back to a desk job, and was selected for the Congressional Fellowship Program, which put him in Washington D.C.  He worked for Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina.  I was able to visit Trane and Maggie during his time inWashington.  He did a great job for the Corps and made some good connections while working on Capitol Hill, but like all good Marines he wanted to get back to the fleet with the troops.

In April, he received orders stationing him and his family in Hawaii, and somehow he managed to get a slot as the operations officer for his old battalion–2/3 was scheduled to deploy to Iraq last August.  The interesting thing about this job is he really didn’t have to do it.  One thing that helps you get promoted in the Marine Corps is doing different jobs at each rank. 

As I mentioned before, he had already spent time as a battalion operations officer.  At the time he was headed to Hawaii, he was in the zone to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.  His plan was to go out, do a float, keep his men alive, and come back home.  Then he would hopefully be promoted and have the chance to command a battalion of his own. 

That’s the kind of Marine Trane was.  He volunteered to do a job he didn’t have to do, because he cared about his men and he always tried to accomplish the mission.  He loved his wife, he loved his children and even though the hardship of being away from them for so long was tough, Trane knew the men in 2/3 and wanted to do his part.

While he was in Iraq, he was selected to be promoted to Lt. Colonel.  First you have to be in the zone, then you get selected, and finally they officially promote you.  Trane was posthumously promoted to Lt. Colonel after his death.

It is taking me a bit longer than I planned to tell you about my friend.  I will stop for now, but on Wednesday, I will share a bit about his family and the service in Arlington.  I hope you don’t mind me sharing my thoughts about Trane.  I know the world has to keep going, but when you lose somebody like him, who was willing to give so much for us, I just think it’s good to stop and think about what he did for all of us.

(Click Here to read Part 1 of Rod Jetton’s 4 part series: “Losing a Good Friend”)

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