CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Commanding officers come and go at all levels of the Marine Corps. From company commanders to officers in charge to commanding generals … they all earn respect through leading their respective units. Some come for short periods … for specific deployments or operations. Others take on the challenge of commanding a unit for an extended time, potentially both in garrison and around the world.
Commanding officers often have too much going on to get to know many of their Marines. If a CO can do that, however, a mark will be left on the Marines he or she was in charge of.
This was the case for Brig. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, who served as the commanding general of the 2nd Marine Logistics Group for the past two years.
Ayala will move on to United States Southern Command in Miami and add to his already long resume, which includes a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas at El Paso and several deployments to combat zones.
With the success Ayala has had, one might think he was meant to be an officer from the moment he stumbled upon the Corps.
“I found out about the officer program by accident,” recalled Ayala, the oldest of nine children. “The officer selection office put a booth in the middle of the school, so I went to talk to them, and it was great. I could graduate from college and be a Marine.”
Although he had no preference to enlist or earn his commission, “I just wanted to be a Marine,” he stated.
His plan was to complete a successful tour and move on to something else, but around his five year mark Ayala found himself considering staying in the Corps.
“What I intended to do was travel, get through the officer candidate school, do a successful tour, get promoted to captain and get out,” he said. “But when it was time for me to get out I thought to myself, ‘I really enjoy this, I’ve traveled, and I was offered to go to Amphibious Warfare School.’ So I decided to stay in.”
As his career went on, Ayala added goals, such as becoming a commander. It’s a mission he accomplished. He’s commanded company, squadron and group levels in the Marine Corps.
“I’ve commanded successfully thanks to some great Marines and great officers,” said Ayala. “You don’t do this by yourself; you do it on the backs and shoulders of a lot of lance corporals, noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers and a lot of lieutenants and captains. That’s where the real work gets done.”
As he moves on to US SOUTHCOM, where he will be chief of staff, he expressed how much he would miss the Marines he is leaving in 2nd MLG.
“I won’t forget the Marines and sailors, the long formations of guys, and their faces,” Ayala said. “I went to the units a lot, and I won’t forget how competent they were and how well they did in Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti.”
During one of the rehearsals for the change of command ceremony, Ayala stood by and listened to the announcer.
“As they were practicing on the microphone, they’re saying ‘remarks from Brig. Gen. Ayala’ and then they said ‘remarks from 2nd MLG commanding general,’” Ayala said. “And my heart sunk, because I’m not it anymore. Then there’s the formation of hundreds of Marines, and I’m going to miss that.”
“He was all about his Marines,” said Cpl. Rafael Marrero, Ayala’s personal driver while at 2nd MLG. “Whether in Iraq or here, he was all about us. I remember we would be standing around and there were a bunch of officers, but he would come speak with us. He would ask us how we were doing and just talk.
"He was a leader in every aspect of the word.”