On October 27, 2023, FORCE Michael J. Roberts was piped ashore in a combination change of charge-retirement ceremony held at the Memorial Auditorium at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. It marked the end of a nearly 33-year Navy career for Roberts that included three years as Force Master Chief of Navy Medicine and Director of the Navy Hospital Corps.
As ceremony presiding officer, Acting Surgeon General Rear Adm. Darin Via painted a picture of FORCE Roberts as a “humble and tenacious leader” who remained committed to serving his Sailors.
“For FORCE Mike Roberts, his Sailors have always come first,” said Via. “You list any accomplishment in his career, and he will skillfully deflect it and make sure someone else gets the credit. And nothing provides him greater joy than seeing one of his Sailors recognized for their efforts. We call this ‘selflessness’ and ‘servant leadership’ – but this is FORCE Roberts.”
Roberts enlisted in the Navy in January 1991, soon after graduating from a firefighting academy. As he noted, his expectations for what service would be evolved in those first years in uniform.
“I went from basic training to Hospital Corps “A” School in San Diego to Naval Hospital Long Beach to field medical training at Camp Pendleton,” said Roberts. “For those first two years of service I didn’t understand what was going on and each day I asked myself, ‘What did I do?,’ Why did I do it?’ and ‘How do I get out?’”
But along the way, it just “clicked” for Roberts.
“You start to develop the important bonds and develop those relationships with the mentors and leaders,” explained Roberts. “You begin to advance through the organization and your perspective changes. You find ‘your calling.’”
Over the next three decades, Roberts found his calling across a storied career as a Surface Independent Duty Corpsman (IDC), on FMF deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and in support of humanitarian assistance missions in Africa; and service as Fleet Medical Master Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/5th Fleet, Bahrain. In October 2020, after consecutive tours as Command Master Chief for I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), 1st Marine Division, 2D Marine Logistics Group, and 2D Medical Battalion, he reported to the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) as the 16th Force Master Chief and Director of the Hospital Corps. In these roles, he served as senior enlisted advisor to Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, the 39th Surgeon General, until the latter’s retirement in March 2023.
As the event’s guest speaker Rear Adm. Gillingham spoke of Roberts’ dedication and passion for service.
“I had the good fortune of working with Michael during my tenure as Surgeon General and it was the rare day when he didn’t teach me something about the Navy, about taking care of Sailors or how to best represent Navy Medicine to the Fleet and Fleet Marine Force,” said Gillingham. “He is an intrusive, but compassionate leader who is a role model who always practices what he preaches, a trusted advisor relied upon by generals and admirals, a loyal friend who can always be trusted and a believer that the hard right is always easier than the easy wrong.”
Both Via and Gillingham noted that Robert’s legacy has been his commitment to Sailors.
“I can tell you we had to add additional time to our travel schedules because he could not walk past a group of Sailors and Marines without stopping and talking to them,” related Gillingham.
True to this hallmark, Roberts thanked his shipmates and highlighted the many Sailors who inspired him through their actions as hospital corpsmen—from HM2 William Peeler, an off-duty corpsman who came to the aide of an injured motorcyclist along Highway 80 in San Antonio in March 2023 to HM3 Maxton Soviak, the heroic Sailor who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Kabul bombing of August 2021 while helping Afghan children get medical care.
“I would ask that you appreciate the power of small things done in a great way,” said Roberts. “Let us be inspired by those individuals [like these Sailors] who day-by-day strive to make a difference through simple acts of kindness, resilience and dedication.”
Roberts closed out his remarks by commending CMDMC PatrickPaul Mangaran who took the helm as 17th Force Master Chief and Director of the Hospital Corps, earlier in the ceremony. “I leave Navy Medicine knowing that our Hospital Corps is in good hands,” said Roberts. “Navy Medicine is getting a great leader who will be taking the Hospital Corps to that next level.”
As Roberts moves into the next chapter of his life and returns home to his family to be, as he put it “CDO—Chief Daddy Officer” to his children, it is clear that the Sailors of Navy Medicine will aways be part of his life and will continue to inspire him.
“To the men and women of the Hospital Corps it has been my life’s honor to be associated with the finest medical professionals in Navy Medicine,” said Roberts.
|Date Posted:||10.28.2023 08:12|
|Location:||FALLS CHURCH, VA, US|