“It’s a small world,” is a phrase often heard in the military as service members frequently encounter one another at various duty stations around the globe. But two Sailors at Walter Reed Bethesda are further proof that “the past is never far behind.”
Commander Jason Darby, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) assistant chief of staff, and Master Chief Clinton A. Garrett Sr., command master chief of the Navy Medicine Professional Development Center (NMPDC) at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB), served in the same Navy Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (NJROTC) unit at Detroit’s Murray-Wright High School during the early 1980s. Now the two are together again, but this time as Sailors at NSAB. Although they’ve served their country in uniform for more than 50 years of combined active duty service, NSAB is the first duty station where the commander and master chief have been assigned at the same base and time.
“It has been great to bump into Cmdr. Darby from time to time, and now to be stationed on the same base,” Garrett said. “I thought he was here for an NMPDC course, and then learned he was stationed here.
“I am truly proud of [him],” Garrett said of Darby. “He is a family man, an officer and a gentleman. He is well respected, and I truly believe, he is flag-officer caliber, and better yet, with [his wife] Carol’s love and support, flag-officer family caliber.”
Darby expressed the similar respect for the master chief. “[He] is a great role model for America’s sons and daughters, and the nation is lucky to have enjoyed his service for close to 30 years,” the commander said. “I am very proud of Master Chief Garrett, as he is at the top of his pay grade in the Navy, and to see such success fosters great promise for [other] inner-city kids in Detroit.”
Darby and Garrett were officers in the NJROTC at Murray-Wright High School.
Garrett, who was two years ahead of Darby at the school, was a platoon and fancy drill team commander and Darby was the unit’s brigade executive officer.
“He graduated high school with my older brother, and I graduated with his younger brother,” Darby said, adding that being a part of Murray-Wright’s NJROTC was beneficial in his career.
“Leadership and mini-boot camp training paid huge dividends, even today,” Darby said. “Being under close scrutiny of the Naval Science instructors forces young people to do what’s right, [and the] tangible benefits upon my entry into the Navy [was] the difference between E-1 and E-3 [pay], and real money and opportunity for me.”
Garrett also praised the benefits of the NJROTC program.
“The NJROTC mantra is ‘Helping Today’s Youth Meet Life’s Challenges,’” the master chief explained. “The program’s mission is to instill in students the values of citizenship, service to [the nation], personal responsibility and a sense of accomplishment.
“NJROTC fulfilled its mission and then some,” he added, explaining the program’s influence on himself and Darby. The NJROTC instructors for the two — retired Capt. Howard A. Konetchy, retired Chief Harry Reid, retired Chief Robert M. Joyner, and retired 1st Class Petty Officer Samuel Brogdon — “were inspirational to [our] career success and lives overall,” Garrett said.
After graduating from Murray-Wright high school, where he also met his wife, Alexa, also a member of the NJROTC unit, Garrett joined the Navy. He joked recently that most people don’t keep close ties with their military recruiters, but 19 years after his Navy recruitment in 1984, he spoke at the retirement ceremony of his recruiter, Master Chief Norman Nash.
In addition to NSAB, Garrett, a hospital corpsman, has served two tours in the Middle East, is dual warfare qualified, and is a graduate of the National Defense University Keystone Course and Senior Enlisted Academy. He has also earned a master’s degree in health care management, and is board certified in homeland security. He and his wife have two sons, one attending college and the other enlisting in the Navy.
Darby has been equally successful in his Navy career. The commander spent nine years as an enlisted hospital corpsman before being commissioned as an officer in 1998. He served tours in Bahrain; with the Joint Staff, U.S. European Command; and Chief of Naval Operations’ staff, U.S. Africa Command.
He has also earned master’s degrees from Webster University and the Naval War College. The commander and his wife, Carol, also a Detroit native, have a son who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in May and recently began naval aviation training in Pensacola, Fla., a son who’s a high school senior, and two daughters, one in middle school and the other in elementary school.
“The Navy is known for its professional Sailors, both officers and enlisted; its core values of honor, courage and commitment; the Warrior ethos; and for establishing lifelong friendships and other collegial relationships that span both time and the globe,” Garrett said.
For more information about the NJROTC program, visit www.njrotc.navy.mil.