MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
On the morning of Oct. 16, 2013, every Marine across the Corps received a white letter from the Corps’ senior leaders, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Micheal Barrett.
“The Reawakening,” as the letter was titled, was a call to arms for all leaders to reinvigorate their leadership skills and commitment to building Marines who embody the Corps’ ethos and values. The sergeants and corporals were the target audience, since they’ve been the storied backbone of the Corps for 238 years.
In the five months since the letter was released, Amos and Barrett have toured the Corps, speaking to the thousands of NCOs about their stake in the state of the Corps. The final stop on the tour was Little Hall, aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico on Feb. 25, 2014, where each of the seats in the auditorium was filled by an NCO, and where the discussion continued about the Reawakening.
“The Reawakening is about NCOs returning to being the backbone of our Corps,” said Cpl. Linda Valencia, a supply administration clerk with Service Co., Headquarters and Service Battalion. “We’ve been focused on preparing our Marines to deploy and win our nation’s wars, but forgot to teach the long-term, career-oriented things. Wars will come and go, but Marines also need to be conscious leaders, maintain their integrity and many other soft skills.”
Sgt. Scott Kronmiller, a motor transport operator also with Service Co., agreed with Valencia, and stressed the cyclic nature of a war fighting organization.
“I once had a sergeant major describe to me what the Marine Corps was like in the mid-to-late 70s, when he came in, and that seems like the same situation we’re in now,” Kronmiller said. “There were the beginnings of a drug problem, motivation and morale were down, and other issues, but these sort of things happen following a war. The commandant knows this, and in times like this, we fall back on the foundation that was laid in years past.”
The foundation Kronmiller refers to is the same Amos wrote about in his letter to all NCOs. It has been bolstered by 238 years of service from men and women wearing the Marine cloth and compounded by new layers of Marines with each generation being taught by those before them.
“It seems like a simple concept, but you wouldn’t build a home by putting up the roof first,” said Cpl. Moraim Arias, another motor transport operator with Service Co. “It all starts with a solid foundation, and we, Marine sergeants and corporals, are that foundation.”
Arias, as one of multiple small unit leaders within her unit, found one of the biggest issues weighing down young leaders make is tangling their leadership and friendship.
“Some NCOs misunderstand that to be understanding of our Marines we have to become soft,” said Arias. “The truth is we must remain firm and fair, because if too much control is lost we will return to extremes.”
Though Valencia, Kronmiller and Arias have had different experiences in the Corps, each of the three NCOs agree there is no “instant fix,” because it is not broken, but there is still a need to their fellow sergeants and corporals to remember they are not infallible.
“I didn’t know everything when I was a corporal, though I thought I did,” said Kronmiller. “But what I did have was a desire to be that prime example of a leader my drill instructor talked about when he said ‘nothing can beat that reliable, 25-year-old sergeant.’ I’ve always known I wanted to be that guy, and if Marines live up to their idea of ‘that guy’ or ‘that girl,’ we’ll be fine.”