The 25-year-old from Lakeland, Fla., is married, and his first son, Joseph, was born in May.
CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — Staff Sgt. David E. Vogt, a 25-year-old legal services chief, is an eternal optimist and a “living moral compass” for his fellow Marines, choosing to focus on the possibilities of what he and others can do to better the world around them.
He demonstrates this by giving up his free time to volunteer with local organizations and by inspiring Marines as well as disadvantaged teenagers and school kids.
“Never lose the possibilities of the day,” he said.
With his penchant for volunteering and mentoring others, Vogt has been selected as the 2010 Marine Corps Times Marine of the Year.
Just last year alone, Vogt spent nearly 500 hours volunteering with local and base groups.
He has volunteered at the Camp Pendleton base animal shelter. He’s read stories to school children and organized activities for elementary students at one of the base schools. He’s raised money in donations for a local homeless shelter and served meals for local senior citizens. Even after finishing his bachelor’s degree and chipping away toward a master’s degree, he continues to tutor Marines in college English and math.
In his six years in uniform, Vogt has been meritoriously promoted in rank four times. On April 2, he pinned on the first rocker of a staff sergeant.
Vogt is a consummate NCO and, according to superiors, a leader at heart. Tapped as a master trainer, he guided 1,350 Marines through the new NCO Suicide Prevention Program. He is also credited with directly helping to steer a troubled Marine away from possible suicide.
His command has taken note of all of Vogt’s efforts, this spring nominating the then-sergeant for Marine of the Year.
Vogt “is a living example of ‘duty, honor, country,’” wrote his supervisor, Lt. Col. Kent J. Keith. “He is truly dedicated to the Marine Corps and individual Marines. Although a perfect candidate for one of the Marine Corps commissioning programs … Vogt has elected to remain in the enlisted ranks for the sole purpose of being closer to Marines, allowing him the ‘hands-on’ ability to lead and mentor junior Marines.”
The command credits Vogt with inspiring other Marines to enroll for college classes and Marine Corps Institute courses.
“His honor is without question, and he is a living moral compass for all the officers and enlisted within the battalion,” Keith added.
Joining in the nomination was the battalion commander, Col. Philippe Rogers, who trusted Vogt enough to pick then-Sgt. Vogt to run the 1,700-member battalion as part of “NCOs Run the Battalion Week.”
“[Vogt] is the best NCO of Marines I have seen in over 23 years of service,” said Rogers, who noted he had ranked him the top sergeant among more than 150 sergeants in the battalion. “This is the consummate professional and Marine NCO — there [is] none better.”
It’s not uncommon for Vogt to dole out advice to younger Marines.
“A support net is not made with one rope,” he notes. “As a staff sergeant, I can use that to inspire younger Marines to do the same.”
“You get what you give, and you learn from the people you meet,” Vogt said. “You’ve got to get out of the box … even if it’s someone at the soup kitchen who has nothing other than a bowl. They can still teach you.”
Last summer, guided by his battalion commander, Vogt helped organize the unit’s NCO Association. He wrote its constitution, which, he said, reminds NCOs “to lead and inspire Marines to realize there is no limitation on what an NCO is capable of in their position and influence,” whether on junior Marines or superiors. The association was the first of its kind at Camp Pendleton — two others are now active.
The fledgling group elected him its first president. These days, Vogt serves as mentor to its more than 250 members. Last year, Vogt led the NCOs in organizing the annual Marine Corps Birthday Ball.
“We took it; we made it our own,” Vogt said. More than 1,000 people — officers and enlisted Marines plus families and friends — partied at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego. The event raised $20,000.
“It demonstrates there is no limit to what a sergeant, or a corporal, can do, especially when they team it up together and do it as a group,” Vogt said.
This past spring, he received the 2009 Defense Department National Image Meritorious Service Award, an honor given to the top enlisted Marine for community service work. Last year, he was named as Camp Pendleton’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year, honoring his “superior volunteerism” and work with the Camp Pendleton Rotary Club.
After nearly three years working at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Vogt spent about four months in Tampa, Fla., on special temporary assignment with Marine Corps Forces-Central Command. Then came orders to Camp Pendleton, and he ramped up his volunteer projects.
Vogt’s focus is now shifting as he prepares to deploy to Afghanistan as an individual augmentee, heading to the war zone with a I Marine Expeditionary Force legal team. It will be his first time in the combat zone.