Marine general boosted training for reservists

By Stefanie Dell’Aringa
Special to the Tribune
Published February 4, 2005

Retired Maj. Gen. Mitchell J. Waters spent much of his military career breaking down the walls that separated Marine reservists from active-duty members.

After the Persian Gulf war, he spent six months at the Pentagon, during which time he testified before Congress in favor of joint training of reservists and active-duty Marines for future wars.

He wasn’t alone in his endeavors, said retired Maj. Gen. Mike Coyne. But his personality and charisma made him the perfect advocate.

As a result of his efforts, reservists from the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, which he once commanded, are fighting in Iraq today.

“Mitch believed there would come a time that the Marine Corps Reserve would be needed, and he argued it strongly,” Coyne said. “Clearly other people were present and contributing, but nobody could exaggerate the role that Mitch Waters played in that.”

Mr. Waters, 69, died of brain cancer Thursday, Jan. 27, in his Lake Barrington Shores home.

He proved that his battalion of reservists could measure up to active-duty Marines by taking them to a NATO exercise in Germany in 1978.

“They performed so well in that exercise as measured against the performance of two other active battalions that he gave credence to what he was arguing,” Coyne said.

Mr. Waters also had a full-time civilian job as a salesman and was a Little League coach. He also ran in five marathons and later started his own business, an electrical tool and die manufacturer.

“He could work on five things at one time and generally was happier doing that,” said his wife, Cindy. “His focus was always multiple, never singular.”

Mr. Waters was born and raised in Evanston and graduated from Evanston Township High School, where he played baseball, basketball and football. He received a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., where he pursued a double major in sociology and anthropology.

He began his Marine career during his sophomore year of college, when he participated in an officer training program. In 1960, just two weeks after he had fulfilled his active-duty commitment, he joined the reserves.

At the same time, he landed a job as a salesman. During his career, he was a senior sales manager and president at various companies.

Mr. Waters, who retired from the Marine Corps Reserve in 1993, received the Legion of Merit award for his efforts toward a unified Marine Corps training program.

He also is survived by two daughters, Melissa Waters Blank and Julie Waters Price; a son, Mitchell Jeffery; a sister, Sally Waters Hobson; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service with military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Presbyterian Church of Barrington, 6 Brinker Rd., Barrington.