2016 Marine Corps Times
Winner
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing
1st Battalion, 6th Marines

Gunnery Sgt. Brian Downing is a man who gets things done — and that has the earned him respect from subordinates and superiors alike.

Though a fast burner who made gunny in just 10 years and is now a semester away from a master’s degree, Downing's efforts are anything but self-serving. Unwilling to see his Marines live in dilapidated barracks, he tirelessly studied the supply system to figure out how to obtain materials needed to renovate 90 barracks rooms, common areas, and duty posts.

He took the same approach when outfitting his combined anti-armor team for an upcoming seven-month deployment with 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. The Iraq and Afghanistan veteran spent countless hours identifying, petitioning, and ultimately obtaining dozens of items most Marine only dream of having. He then rewrote standard operating procedures to accurately reflect current tactics with those technologies. Yet Downing’s greatest effort was invested in his 40 Marines. Each are well ahead of career milestones and have achieved multiple combat and job qualifications beyond Marine Corps requirements. As a team, they have proven themselves capable of numerous missions beyond the anti-armor assignment in predeployment workups.

Downing’s favorite form of community service is beach cleanup – and he even uses that work to help prepare his Marines for the unknown. In addition to arming himself with garbage bags and trash picks, Downing is known to check out combat metal detectors from the battalion supply warehouse. This enables him to recruit fellow volunteer Marines, who then practice combat formations and search techniques for improvised explosive devices as they work. Notable quote: Downing “lives by the Marine Corps motto of sustaining the transformation of each civilian into a service member and maintaining their personal improvement the entire time they are in the military,” said 1st Lt. Adam Levey, the combined anti-armor team’s commander. “There is not one facet of any of my Marines’ lives that Gunnery Sgt. Downing is not involved in. … Although Gunnery Sgt. Downing is technically my subordinate, I consider him to be the greatest mentor I have ever had.”