Editor’s note: Sgt. Bernadette (Wildes) Plouffe is a 2015 graduate of Milton High School. She received first place in the 2018 Defense Media Awards for the following information story. She also received first place in the photojournalism category.
Sunset at sea – it is also a fitting end to a career of service, exactly where Marines belong: sheets to the wind with a following sea, saluting another day passed at the forward edge of the Nation’s defense. Ask Col. Scott Fosdal – a 30 year Marine, a master of naval service and Marine Corps professionalism.
“I never set out to make this a career,” Fosdal said. “I set out to be satisfied; to try and make a difference. This is where I ended up.”
And where he ended up is right where you would expect a man of his experience and pedigree to be during the final act of his career. He lived, experienced and participated in the the most recent consequential decades of the Corps’ storied history; Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom – Fosdal has had a front row view of America’s wars during three decades as a Reconnaissance Marine.
Now, at the end of his career – in fact, after his official retirement date – Fosdal punctuated the final chapter of his Marine Corps story as lead evaluator with III Marine Expeditionary Force’s Expeditionary Operations Training Group, advising his onetime mentee, Col. Robert “Bams” Brodie during the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s operations.
After 30 years of service and thousands of “snapshot” memories over time, his last memories in the Marine Corps will be ones to remember, according to Fosdal.
“Just the other night, we were parachuting with the recon team,” said Fosdal. “At 13,000 feet they exit the aircraft, we turned and the sun was hitting the clouds just right. You see the ocean and it’s just beautiful. These young Marines were charging out of the aircraft, carrying half their body weight, fearlessly flinging themselves out. How can that not be awesome?”
Fosdal, shortsighted as many young, ambitious people tend to be, intended a four-and-out stint as a Marine officer after his youth in Rockdale, Wisconsin. A heritage of Marine Corps service – both his father and great grandfather wore the Eagle, Globe and Anchor – stood in contrast to his community’s feelings about military service during the period when Vietnam was still a fresh memory in the Nation’s collective conscious.
“I remember when my mom drove me past a church near the University of Wisconsin, all the windows were busted,” said Fosdal. “She told me how anti-war protestors blew it up and killed a night watchman. The whole area around me was anti-military growing up.”
A curious mind, and a familial spirit of service to country, fed his imagination despite societal bias against military service at the time. At age 12 he read an article about reconnaissance Marines and Fosdal began charting the path that now ends after 30 years.
“I read about the battles going on and the Marines were always in the middle of it,” said Fosdal. “I never considered any other branch. I knew this is what I wanted to do.”
And he did just that. Throughout his career he was able to accomplish all that he wanted, and more, knowing one day he would make the difference he dreamed of.
“You only get a couple of lines on your tombstone,” said Fosdal. “I was content with letting mine be ‘Marine Officer… Infantry Officer’.”
As Fosdal took his last steps off the USS Wasp with the Marines’ Hymn echoing inside the ship’s hangar bay, two columns of Marines fast at attention, he raised a final salute, acknowledging the Stars and Stripes flapping with the breeze. Finally, back turned and walking down the pier, Fosdal is prepared to start watching the sun rise and set across the rolling hills of Montana.
“When you retire it’s the first time you get to decide what you do and where you live,” said Fosdal. “I’ve decided where I’m going to live and I’ll decide what I’m going to do when I get there.”
To see all of the 2018 Defense Media Award Winners, go to www.dvidshub.net/awards/dma.