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Sgt. Maj. Gerald Saunders, MCINCR-MCB Quantico sergeant major, addresses enlisted Marines at a monthly Troop Appreciation gathering and Professional Military Education session at The Clubs of Quantico June 1.

Photo by Adele Uphaus-Conner

Saunders delivers his final troop appreciation talk

13 Jun 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

Sgt. Maj. Gerald Saunders, Marine Corps Installations National Capital Region-Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCINCR-MCBQ) sergeant major, held the final Troop Appreciation gathering of his tenure on June 1. Saunders will retire from the Marine Corps in July.

“I enjoy my time with you,” he told the enlisted Marines gathered at The Clubs of Quantico. “I love young people, how they think, how innovative they are. It’s been my honor and privilege to be your sergeant major.”

Topics covered at the monthly Professional Military Education session included activities available to Marines on base and the “protect what you’ve earned” campaign, which aims to make service members aware of how their lifestyle choices can affect their military careers and their families.

Col. Joseph Murray, MCINCR-MCBQ commander, addressed the Marines first. He briefly discussed summer safety, particularly when it comes to alcohol, and asked the service members to think about what “protect what you’ve earned” means to them.

“As Marines, we look at the other services who don’t wear this cloth as a little bit less,” he said. “When you wear this uniform, people look at you and size you up. Make sure you’re committed to excellence for yourself, your shop, and the greater good of the Marine Corps.”

He also questioned the Marines about what programs they would like to see Marine Corps Community Services (MCCS) sponsor for them. Answers included more volunteer opportunities, tickets to sporting events, art and photography classes, and more battlefield study trips.

Murray said that plans to build a paintball range and host free kayak trips for units are in progress. He also encouraged the Marines to go out and look for opportunities.

“If you’re playing X-Box in your room all weekend, you’re missing out,” he said.

Saunders also encouraged the service members to be proactive about finding things to do.

“We do stuff on this base all the time but no one shows up,” he said. “You’ve got to participate! Follow the base and MCCS on social media and find out what’s going on. Or come to me. Get your friends together, tell me, and I’ll get you a D.J.”

Following-up on Murray’s safety discussion, Saunders reminded the attendees that being a Marine is a job and poor decision-making will affect their career progression.

“I get it, we’re patriotic, we want to serve, and this is a passion,” he said. “But at the end of the day, this puts food on the table and keeps the lights on for you and your family. Think about how your decisions will affect your family.”

He said that a Quantico Marine was arrested over Memorial Day weekend for getting into a fight.

“I don’t want to see anyone here get in trouble like that,” Saunders said. “It’s the worst feeling in the world taking rank off a Marine. I hate it.

“I want one of you to be standing up here one day as sergeant major talking to young Marines,” he continued. “Maybe even as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps (SMMC). And hopefully, there’s a female in here who wants to be SMMC. It’s about that time.”

Marine Corps Base Quantico