News: 'Top' Squad: MCLB civilian employees use past military experiences to reach mission accomplishment
Story by Cpl. Thomas Bricker
BARSTOW, Calif. - Leadership skills and traits learned by Marines can not only help them with their careers in the military, it can serve a purpose afterward as well.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., holds a ratio of active duty service members to civilian employees unlike many other bases, with a vast majority falling on the latter of the two.
Some of these civilians once wore the uniform of a United States Marine and even fewer achieved the rank of master sergeant. Several departments aboard base are either headed by, or have in them, these Marines formerly known as “Top.”
Marines serve a minimum of 20 years before they become eligible for retirement. During their time in service, Marines climbing up the ranks learn how to lead others under their charge.
“I started learning how to become a leader in the Marine Corps since day one,” explained Martin Durette, a supervisory logistics management specialist with Fleet Support Division aboard the Yermo Annex of MCLB Barstow.
“I didn’t start to use these skills though until I was a lance corporal. A gunnery sergeant of mine really inspired me when I was younger and taught me to act the rank above you,” the Cleveland, Ohio, native added.
While Durette learned about leadership during his time as a junior Marine, others had a head start on their training.
“I like to look at it like I had a leg up on everyone when I was developing my skills as a leader,” explained Robert Jackson, the public affairs officer aboard MCLB Barstow. “Growing up, I lived in a single-parent household that had seven kids in it. Being one of the oldest, my siblings looked up to me for guidance. I feel like this helped me out a lot in learning those leadership skills.”
While serving in the Marine Corps, these retired master sergeants made it through the ranks of the fan-favorite sergeant or gunnery sergeant before reaching the rank they had when they retired. Although attaining master sergeant is an achievement in its own right, many of these veterans recollect on their days as the “sergeant of Marines” or “the gunny.”
“I’d have to say my favorite rank in the Marine Corps was when I was a gunnery sergeant,” said Deputy Chief William Atkinson, of the Marine Corps Police Department aboard MCLB Barstow. “I mean, master sergeant was a great rank to have; I’m glad I retired as one, but being the ‘gunny,’ now that was where the fun was. I got to remain working with the troops while still acting as their leader. The rank of master sergeant had a lot of politics to it I could have dealt without,” Atkinson recalled at his desk at the Security and Emergency Services building aboard the base.
One of the retired master sergeants aboard MCLB Barstow uses his leadership skills in a different way now. Rick Holman, chief instructor with Homeland Security Solutions Incorporated, the company responsible for training members of MCPD, teaches what he’s learned while in the Marine Corps to others now.
“When I was retiring from the Marine Corps in 2005, I had already interviewed for the job I have now. It was when they were standing up the civilian law enforcement on military bases and I was assigned as team leader for the West Coast’s training team,” explained the Sedalia, Mo., native. “I think the leadership traits I had instilled into me while in the Marine Corps go hand-in-hand with my job now, helping these officers learn.”
Being with any organization for more than 20 years can create habits. Being surrounded by the same organization after retiring can make old habits hard to break.
“When I walk through our warehouse and I see Marines practicing drill, I can’t help but stop and watch for a bit,” explained Edwin Wisemon, FSD’s administration officer. “It’s just who I am now. I’ll help them out if they look like they need it and offer some advice to their unit leader,” the former drill instructor said.
The Marine Corps is the smallest military branch in the United States and it’s not uncommon for Marines to find themselves running into others they met earlier in their career. While Jackson and Holman were both stationed in Iwakuni, Japan together at one point, other retirees here served with one another aboard this base while wearing the uniform on active duty.
“It’s great working here with so many guys I served with here on active duty. Establishing relationships with one another is already done and now we have a circle of trust built that we can rely on,” explained Durette. “This network we have built really makes working here a lot easier, knowing that you’ve already worked with these guys for so long already.”
Even though these retired Marines are in careers that keep them around the Corps, there are several differences they had to adjust to. According to Durette, working as a civilian took some time to get used to. Things like unions and new regulations come into play in his new career he explained.
When not hard at work, these employees of MCLB Barstow can sometimes be found in each other’s office carrying on and having a good laugh about current events or past experiences in “the old Corps.”
“We like to get together once in a while to have a talk with one another,” said Wisemon. “This strong network we have built makes working here a lot better because of the relationship we all have with one another. We can get angry at one another every once and a while but more often than that, we can also sit down and have a good laugh,” he added.
Not only is the rank of master sergeant a common factor between these men, what they’ve learned as both, Marines and civilians, is a trend as well.
“We’ve all learned that if you take care of your troops and the civilians you have working for you, mission accomplishment is a lot easier to reach,” Jackson said. “That’s the most important part.”
This work, 'Top' Squad: MCLB civilian employees use past military experiences to reach mission accomplishment, by Cpl Thomas Bricker, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.