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Each day, the VA honors a special military veteran for their dedicated service on their blog, VAntage Point. Today’s veteran is Marine Corps Veteran Alford L. McMichael, the first African American to become sergeant major of the Marine Corps.

Alford L. McMichael was born and lived in Hot Springs, Arkansas before enlisting in the Marine Corps in August 1970. After his basic infantry training, McMichael served with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton, California, in 1973.

After his service at Camp Pendleton, McMichael became a drill instructor, series gunnery sergeant and battalion drill master at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California. He then attended Marine Security Guard School and served at the American Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark. He went on to complete the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy Advanced Course in 1984 and even served in Okinawa, Japan as first sergeant of Company C, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion.

In May 1991, McMichael went to serve as sergeant major of Officer Candidates School at Quantico, Virginia. After eight years, he became the first African American to assume the post of the sergeant major of the Marine Corps. During his time as the 14th sergeant major of the Marine Corps, he helped to establish the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. 

After delaying his planned retirement in 2003, McMichael took on the newly-created role of senior noncommissioned officer at Allied Command Operations and held this position until his actual retirement in July of 2006. 

For his service, McMichael received a Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal.