Manticoran News Bureau

“All the News That’s Fit to Transmit!”




Captain Mark West (standing) as he surveys the battlefield.


He Passed His Test


2015.01.14 CE / 346.09.21 AL (MNB) – A stunning announcement hit the family of spacers on Christmas morning. Mark West—a cornerstone of the Grayson Space Navy—was found dead in his home on the 24th by his brother, probably due to complications from his recent surgery. Being one of the “old guard” of TRMN, the news of his passing echoed through the Facebook boards, and affected everyone who knew him deeply. Most of us had never met Mark in person, and yet his dedication and humor infected everyone he came in contact with.


Mark played a pivotal role in building BuTrain, as one of the first faculty, eventually becoming Chief of Staff, and shaped the Technical Specialties College. “I thought he had been around forever,” Rear Admiral Eric Schulman said. “He sent me my first Saganami Island exam. When he sent my graded exam back, he closed with ‘Good Luck, God's Speed, and remember to honor the Queen in all that you do.’ MCWO West made grading and sending out exams a priority.”  As the first enlisted instructor, and eventually the NCO and Warrant Academy instructor, he touched a lot of spacers’ lives. Chief Helmsman Thomas McDonald noted, “Mark graded a number of my early exams, and always had a thoughtful comment to add in feedback. His comments sparked a number of discussions in which we shared our common interests in military history and other subjects. His enthusiasm was infectious. It was great to join TRMN and feel valued and appreciated as a member, right away.” Commander Steve Randolph agreed, “He was an enthusiastic instructor who was quick with a reply to my numerous questions as I attempted to relate my active duty experiences into a fan run organization. He was the first one on one interaction with anyone from TRMN and he set the bar. I knew from his example that TRMN was a professional and fun loving group.”


Admiral Lord Sir James Friedline, 6th Space Lord, noted that “He not only became my sounding board for ideas and organizing exams, but my friend. He and I had a running argument about his rank. Mark insisted on wanted to stay an enlisted member.... but, I insisted on his becoming an officer, so I could move him into the Chief of Staff position. I ended up brevetting him to Captain (JG), we would joke his real rank was Captain Petty Officer, taking a theme from the old MASH TV show.” The rank joke carried on during the faculty meetings. “Mark was the first person to take me under his wing when I volunteered at the academy,” SMCPON Tom Coonradt remembered. “He called me his Minion. I learned that he took great joy at tweaking people a little. He insisted on calling Admiral Lochen "Your Grace" as well as having a joke at just about any moment. I grew to love my interactions with him. He insisted that no matter what rank he was he would always be a Chief Warrant Officer at heart. I called him Commodore, he called Me captain.” Admiral Schulman laughed, “He met his Time in Grade for Commodore in April of this year but, true to his word, remained a Captain.”


Back when Mark had hair.


Commander Joe Grieco explained that “I thought I was going to be the new Electronics Technician Instructor for SIA.... Then this Grayson Captain looked at my test scores and read the letters I actually send in with each exam and said ‘Hey, how would you like to be my Personnelman Instructor? You really KNOW the job! Also, we're gonna launch the Navy Counselor Course real soon, too, and you can teach that as well!’” Just as he was eager to lasso people into his projects, he was just as willing to do the work himself. “Whatever I needed done Mark was the first to take on the task often without being asked,” Admiral Friedline explained. “If he felt a policy or order I wanted to issue wasn’t proper or up to the standards we established he would let me know in direct terms. Just as any good Chief of Staff worth his salt should. Mark was my right hand.”


Although he was most known for his BuTrain work, he also was dedicated to the Grayson Space Navy. “Mark led things as the previous CO and XO of the GNS Barbara Bancroft decided their time in the sun was over,” Captain (SG) Jeremy Carsten, commanding GNS Barbara Bancroft, reminisced, “and Mark put out the call to the rest of the crew who wanted to lead this rag tag bunch of awesome. He got crickets in response. So he put out the call again – because he'd never let this chapter fade into the night. That's when I had the bright idea of just asking him who had the academy tests done already to be CO and XO. Just pick from that list, easy as can be right? Yeah. Mark then informed me I was the only one with the tests done to be CO, and he was the only other one with them done to be XO. It kind of narrowed it down.”


Grieco realized, “I knew something was going on when I got back from Honorcon this year and noted some folks were having problems with the Admin group. I reached out and found out that Mark wasn't doing well, so I asked him what I could do for him. Once again, he asked me to cover his Admin functions while he got better.” Friedline had greater insight on the captain’s situation. “He kept me up to date on what was happening in his life… When Mark started to have serious health issues, Mark called me. We talked about those issues and what the doctors had told him and his plans for addressing them. When they became severe, he called me and requested a leave of absence because he was worried he would not be able to handle his duties.”


His death is a loss to the Fleet as a whole, and the work that he did will be appreciated by those spacers who remember him. “Neither sought our respective new roles, but both of us took pride in them,” Jeremy Carsten answered, “He held my hand through those early days/months. Those chaotic, ironic, and amused attitude times are what I shall recall most fondly.” Eric Schulman replied, “I am sorry for all the TRMN members of the future who won't get the chance to know him. But they will know about him,” naming the Enlisted School building in his honor. James Friedline added, “Butrain and the RMN has lost a good and faithful member, and I have lost a good friend. May he find the rest and peace he has earned in life. I thank God that he permitted me to know Mark.” Chief Coonradt added. “Mark was always willing to assist anyone with any question or concern. I strive to this day to emulate that. He was the epitome of what we each should strive towards in service of our fellow fans.”


Through his example, many of us who work in the Fleet strive to meet the example of his dedication and humor. Out of all the kind words that have been said of him, the best ending is Commander Grieco’s story. “When… I offered my services to the Officer Academy, Mark's reply was ‘You're nuts, you know? Have fun.’”



Captain West in his very fine hat.


Article Copyright © 2015, Bureau of Communications, The Royal Manticoran Navy: The Official Honor Harrington Fan Association, Inc.
CAPT (JG) Marcus Johnston, Director of Publications, BuComm. All pictures used with permission or used in a way that qualifies as fair use under US copyright law.