(MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va.) --
A hundred years ago, then-Lt. Col. John A. Lejeune — the same Marine who would go on to become the 13th commandant, formalize the Marine Corps’ colors, establish the Marine Corps’ birthday, and found the Marine Corps League and the Marine Corps Institute — founded the Marine Corps Association. Marine Corps officers had a questionable reputation at the time, and the organization began in 1913 as a group of officers who met regularly to discuss improvements to the officer corps, with the goal of establishing a periodical that would spread that discussion across the Corps.
The Marine Corps Association, which celebrates its 100th birthday this afternoon, April 25, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, is now open to active-duty or veteran enlisted members and officers from any service. Headquartered at Marine Corps Base Quantico, it has about 76,000 dues-paying members and a staff of about 110, publishes both the “Marine Corps Gazette” and “Leatherneck” magazine, and has also established programs for recognizing and educating Marines.
“Our primary mission is to make sure our Marines continue to support the advancement of their leadership and then to reward them for the job they’re doing out there,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Kevin Bennett, MCA’s area representative for Quantico and the National Capital Area.
The association has given awards for decades, but the establishment of a partnering foundation in 2009 has allowed it to expand several programs, including the Excellence Awards program. For example, the Command, Control, Communications and Computers Awards Dinner was just held April 18; the Ammo Tech Awards Dinner is coming up later this month, and the Ground Awards Dinner will be held in June. Meanwhile, the Chesty Puller Award goes to the top graduate of every boot camp company.
In the last few years, the MCA has also started a program through which it funds libraries, usually based on the commandant’s reading list, for units that need them, and it also organizes presentations by experts, and other learning opportunities, at the request of commanders through a program known as the Commander’s Forum.
“All our programs have at their heart the element of commander mentorship,” said retired Maj. Gen. Ed Usher, the association’s president and CEO.
The core function of the MCA, though, remains the publication of its two monthly journals, in keeping with Lejeune’s original intent.
“The purpose of the association was, in his mind, to foster an opportunity for robust discussion regarding the history and character of the Marine Corps, to provide a forum for open discussion on changes in military art and tactics, and by doing so, to inspire Marines as professional warriors to openly discuss our Corps and our operations,” Usher said.
The Gazette dates back to 1916, and Leatherneck back to 1917, although the latter did not fall under the MCA until the 1970s. Leatherneck started, in fact, as Marine Corps Base Quantico’s base newspaper while Lejeune was the base commander.
“By and large, all the content in both magazines comes from our members and those who are interested in Marine Corps operations,” said Usher.
The major difference is that Leatherneck is geared toward telling the story of the Marine Corps, while the purpose of the Gazette is to talk military art and science and provide a forum for debate about ways to improve the Corps, Bennett explained.
“There is something in the Gazette every month for the professional Marine, from the corporal to the commandant, no matter what their [military occupational specialty],” said retired Col. John Keenan, editor of the Gazette. “We get articles from Marines who think something could be better, and then you have those who, as part of their official duties, want to get word out to other Marines.”
Many articles come in through the association’s various writing contests, he added.
Retired Col. Walt Ford, the association’s publisher and the editor of Leatherneck, noted that Gen. James Conway, when he was commandant, once remarked that the best way to get a 15-minute audience with him was to publish an article in the Gazette.
As for Leatherneck, Ford said he solicits stories from freelance writers based on historical events and current operations and exercises around the world and also publishes items like poetry and cartoons.
Some 400 to 500 guests are expected at today’s celebration, which will honor the association’s past, character and many accomplishments, or, as Bennett put it, “100 years of taking care of Marines.”
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