Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA --
What does the Marine Corps represent to you?
Marine Corps Base Quantico Headquarters and Service Battalion (H&S Bn.), the largest battalion in the Marine Corps, kicked off the New Year Jan. 10 at Warner Hall Auditorium with kneecap to kneecap Back in the Saddle training. The training is held every year after the holiday season ends in order to get Marines thinking about being Marines again after a sometimes long break or vacation.
The topic of conversation this year was, “Protect What You’ve Earned” and what it means to display leadership and followership.
The Back in the Saddle training was a dialogue between Marines about the representation of the Marine Corps and how to improve upon the legacy bestowed upon them.
“Every United States Marine put their hand in the air and swore an oath to the Constitution—the fundamental basis of this country and laws of our land,” said Col. John Atkinson, H&S Bn. commanding officer. “Every single one of you joined the Marine Corps for some reason, whether to escape something, achieve something or be a part of something greater than yourself.”
Atkinson questioned if the Marines were able to achieve something less than 1 percent of their peers were willing or able to do, then why are Marines violating their oath and tarnishing an image they have no right to tarnish?
“We are all a part of the same organization—we are all a part of the Marine Corps,” Atkinson said. “When a Marine fails to maintain physical fitness standards or goes into town and makes bad decisions and gets arrested that is the Marine Corps, but is that the Corps Marines want to go home and brag about?”
According to Atkinson, no matter a Marines’ billet or duty station, wherever there are Marines there’s the Marine Corps. Marines should be motivated to be around their fellow Marines in every clime and place.
In the next couple of months as Marines get back in the saddle, H&S Bn. plans to separate the Marines from civilians pretending to be Marines who are tarnishing the reputation of the Corps.
Atkinson said Marines will accomplish great things by focusing on the eternal spirit Gen. John A. Lejeune spoke about in his 1921 Marine Corps Birthday Message:
“The spirit each Marine tries to find in themselves as they move to the sound of the gunfire, the spirit which makes Marines stand taller during their hymn and the spirit which has animated the Corps from generation to generation.”
Atkinson believes if Marines conduct themselves like United States Marines and have the leadership they are supposed to, then a lot of problems will go away.
“I really believe we can get to the left of the bang of a lot of the challenges we have whether it be assault or alcohol and drug abuse or other incidents,” Atkinson said. “But, it won’t be by focusing on the negative, but by inspiring the positive.”
Lt. Cmdr. Maurice Buford spoke about the positivity in displaying bold followership.
According to Buford,everything rises and falls on leadership.
“Nobody goes to school to become a bold follower, but when they become one, they lead like nobody’s business,” Buford said. “Before Marines can learn to lead, they must first learn to follow.”
He said 20 percent of the success of an organization is based on leadership and the other 80 percent is based on the backs of bold followers. Where Marines are constantly obtaining knowledge to better themselves as leaders, the overemphasis on leadership can often negate followership.
His dialogue was taught from the book “The Art of Followership,” which talks about the five types of followers—passive sheep, conformist, alienated, pragmatists and bold followers.
Buford had the Marines take a survey asking where they believed the majority of Marines fall on the spectrum.
Two percent answered the Marine Corps was composed of passive sheep, 25 percent yes-people, 14 percent alienated, 43 percent indecisive and 16 percent bold followers.
The results displayed the Marine Corps does not train sheep, nor does it train bold followership. They believed the majority of the Marine Corps is filled with Marines willing to follow command and waiting to rise to the level of leadership.
Many Marines said the root cause of indecisiveness and conformity in the rank is the chain of command structure.
However, Buford said, “rank is not a requirement to be bold.”
“Anybody can be bold so long as they are willing to display courage, integrity and character,” Buford said. “The courage, integrity and character of an individual are truly challenged when they are asked to do the things they don’t want to do.”
Buford added that courage and integrity are impossible to fake. Marines don’t rise to the level of expectation, but to their level of tough, realistic training.