6/20/2013 -- CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – After seeing his brother’s transformation from civilian to Marine in the early 1970s, Col. Randy Lawson knew the Marine Corps was a special organization that could benefit him as well.
“My brother was a troubled kid,” said Lawson, chief of staff, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “Instead of being drafted into the Army, he decided to join the Marine Corps. When I saw him return from boot camp, I saw a changed person. He was on the straight and narrow and has been ever since.”
Lawson grew up in the Baton Rouge, La., area in a middle- to lower-income family. His goal after high school was to obtain his college degree, and while his father worked hard to provide for his family, he knew they did not have the money to send him to school.
After seeing the drastic change in his brother and learning of the benefits the Marine Corps had to offer, Lawson thought this would be the best way for him to achieve his goal of becoming a college graduate.
“I wanted a college degree, and I knew the Marine Corps could help me pay for that,” Lawson said. “At 17, I went and spoke with a recruiter. It took a while to convince my parents to sign for me to join, but they did. I graduated from high school early January 1975 and went to boot camp later that month.”
Upon graduating from Recruit Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Lawson became a radio operator. His three-year contract allowed him to complete multiple assignments as an enlisted Marine.
Lawson was able to deploy to Okinawa, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. Additionally, he was meritoriously promoted to corporal and then promoted to sergeant approximately six months before his contract with the Marine Corps expired.
“I really, really enjoyed the Marine Corps,” Lawson said. “I got out though because I really wanted to go to college and get my degree.”
Lawson completed his active-duty assignment during December 1977 and moved back to Louisiana. He enrolled at Louisiana State University and began to pursue his degree. He graduated in May 1984.
Following graduation, Lawson found work, but was never fully happy. He felt a void and knew he was missing the lifestyle of being a Marine. During late 1985, he decided he would again join the Marine Corps and during February 1986, he began Officer Candidate School.
“I really missed the Marine Corps. I missed the people,” Lawson said.
Lawson was commissioned as a second lieutenant during April 1986, and following The Basic School, he was assigned as a combat engineer.
Throughout his more than 27 years as a Marine Corps officer, Lawson held many challenging yet rewarding billets. From a platoon commander with 7th Engineer Support Battalion to being the commanding officer of two battalions – at the same time – Lawson says his career was very fulfilling. However, he said his most gratifying position was as the commander of Combat Logistics Battalion 5 while deployed to Fallujah, Iraq.
“Deploying to Fallujah in 2005 with CLB-5 was the most meaningful,” Lawson said. “When we arrived, it was definitely a hotly contested area. By the time we left after seven months, you could see the change. It was a great deployment. It was definitely meaningful work.”
On Aug. 30, 2011 Lawson assumed his current billet as the 1st MLG Chief of Staff. While the job of Chief of Staff is challenging in itself, he also had the task of being the acting commander of the group while Brig. Gen. John J. Broadmeadow was deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“During my deployment, he took command of almost the entire MLG. The vast majority of the MLG remained in the rear when we deployed. He did a superb job leading during a very difficult time,” said Brig. Gen. Broadmeadow. “I was very fortunate to have a quality leader like Col. Lawson.”
“This job has been very rewarding,” Lawson said. “I never felt like I was the commander though. I was here to help keep things running while the boss was deployed. We had a great staff who really worked hard to keep things going. It made my job much easier.”
This humility was typical of Lawson, who was known for accomplishing tasks without a lot of fanfare. While in command in the rear, “the lack of fanfare and the smooth transition were all directly due to his leadership,” said Brig. Gen. Broadmeadow.
For the past 22 years of Lawson’s service, he has had one constant. His wife, Molly, has stood by his side and supported him the whole way through.
“As always, I don’t give my wife enough credit,” Lawson said. “Between 2008 and 2011, we moved four times, and she was always the one to make sure we were organized and ready to go. She is awesome. I never would have got to where I’m at without her by my side.”
With more than 30 years of active service, Lawson plans to retire on June 20, 2013. Leaving the Marine Corps will be bittersweet.
“I will definitely miss the people,” he said. “I will miss the camaraderie and just being around all these dedicated individuals.”
“He made a huge impact not only on the Marines of the MLG, but the entire I MEF,” said Brig. Gen. Broadmeadow. “I’ll miss having him around.”