July 8 marked 3 years since the Marine Recon community lost one of its finest. MSGT John Hayes was killed in action in Afghanistan on July 8, 2009.

When I passed the indoc and was actually assigned to 2d Recon Bn, John was one of the first faces that we learned to fear. We were ropes and he was a seasoned Recon SGT.

We were reminded quite often that we didn’t rate shit, and to make things even more uncomfortable, all of the new ropes were assigned to the barracks that John’s platoon lived in … not a great situation for us ropes living with an operational platoon.

Of all of the hazing and thrashing we dealt with, John was always the one who made sure we learned something every evolution. No matter how small or big of a lesson, we learned something.

I remember quite a few times being on duty, and John would sit down with me and really go through what we were learning. A lot of guys would ask you a few knowledge questions just hoping you’d get them wrong to start a small “PT Session”, but he wanted to make sure you not only knew the subject, but understood it.

He exemplified the definition of a silent professional. No yelling or chest pumping was necessary with this guy … he just commanded respect when he walked in a room. This respect wasn’t unwarranted, because he knew his job and had the reputation that legends were made of.

MSGT John Hayes
MSGT John Hayes

One fine morning, John and his platoon decided that they’d take the new ropes out for a nice PT session. This wasn’t the norm, since we were assigned to our own platoon. This was their way of seeing what we were made of. The PT session was nasty, to say the least, but we all made it through. I might even go out on a limb and say that we all earned a little bit of respect from the old school.

Like I said, there was always a reason behind everything John did, no hazing for the sake of hazing. He just wanted to ensure that if we made it through Amphib Recon School (ARS), he’d have no issues with any of us being on his team down the road.