All eyes were facing one Marine, one man standing at nearly 6 feet tall, towering over many with his broad shoulders and stout upper body as he was promoted to master sergeant of Marines at the High Intensity Tactical Training Center on Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jan. 13.
Master Sgt. Christopher McDougal, the administrative chief for Marine Aircraft Group 26, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, has served more than 18 years in the Marine Corps. While being stationed in Tampa Bay, Florida, he spent 60 days on leave at the Air Station HITT Center alternating between an Olympic lifting work-out, a personal work-out or participating in one of the HITT sessions taking place that day.
"I chose to be promoted at the HITT Center because it’s a place where I could just be myself," said McDougal. "The personnel here are outstanding and they made it easy to be here when I first arrived in New River. They became family."
Former tattoo regulations prevented McDougal from being eligible for reenlistment but didn’t affect McDougal’s promotion. Faced with the news he turned to family to help keep his momentum moving forward.
"For the last year and half Jeffery Weathersby, my father, had been my mentor. The man that showed me how to up my game and I will always appreciate that," said McDougal. "I had to continue to be strong and effective (for my boys) even after being told I wasn’t able to reenlist. I had to be positive and I couldn’t begin the day with my head down. I knew that I had to show them that no matter what adversity you go through you have to handle yourself as an adult and more importantly as a man."
McDougal asked his father, who had flown in from McDougal’s birthplace of Jackson, Mississippi, and Jireh Wilson, his eldest son, if they would place his newly earned rank on his collar.
"I think his promotion to master sergeant is well deserved because even with the adversity he is going through he does the most for other people when he doesn’t have to," said Maurice Williams, a lifelong friend and former Marine who served with McDougal. "I want people to know that he is relatable, he’s compassionate and he cares for and inspires people whether they are in the Marine Corps or not."