News: 26th MEU challenges, empowers its NCOs
Story by Lance Cpl. Joshua Brown
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Just over half of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit command element are noncommissioned officers. An initiative of the 26th MEU commanding officer and senior leadership is to challenge and empower this large body of NCOs.
“We’re providing them opportunities designed to foster camaraderie, empower them, and remind them they are the future of the Marine Corps,” said Sgt. Maj. Scott M. Schmitt, the 26th MEU sergeant major.
This course of action is carried out through situations and events which are tasked to NCOs in the MEU. They take charge of the planning and claim responsibility for these assignments. This is further supported by “war councils,” meetings between senior leadership and the NCOs, which provide a direct line of communication.
“Our plans are in line with the Corps wide reawakening, and we’re emphasizing the ethos and qualities already set by the Marine Corps,” said Schmitt.
NCOs are the first link in a junior Marine’s chain of command. They interact directly with the Marines under their charge and act as the mediator between the senior leadership and the junior Marines. The requirements and expectations of NCOs are clearly defined by the Marine Corps, and units are responsible for upholding these.
“It is incumbent on us to uphold the Marine Corps’ expectations,” said Schmitt. “At the war councils, we talk to NCOs at a candid level and encourage them to be open and provide ideas to better enable their success, so they can meet, but more so exceed the expectations.”
Aside from the war council and usual tasks required of the NCOs at the MEU, they have been responsible for other events. Some of these events include the relief and appointment ceremony of Sgt. Maj. Todd M. Parisi and Sgt. Maj. Scott M. Schmitt, command element physical training, and they will be leading the change of command ceremony for Col. Matthew G. St. Clair.
“We [the senior leadership] get to observe and evaluate how well the NCOs handle each opportunity,” said Schmitt. “Later we can discuss this in the war councils and find out how the NCOs felt about the task.”
Schmitt said they have covered a wide range of topics in war councils such as stepping out ahead of one’s peers, force downsizing, and the chance to get involved with the male and female ground combat element.
Sgt. Joshmary Quilesreyes, a warehouse clerk assigned to the 26th MEU and the platoon sergeant of the supply section, said, “They’re giving us an opportunity to show our leadership, and show that we can do our job well.”
Quilesreyes was involved in the planning of multiple MEU events, and is the platoon sergeant for the command element during formations.
“The events give us chances to stick out as leaders that are ready, prepared and capable,” said Quilesreyes. “The war councils allow us to share our voice with senior leadership directly.”
She said she felt the push to empower NCOs is positive, and a good challenge for the junior leadership in the MEU.
“I try to exceed Marine Corps standards and encourage and inspire the Marines in my charge to do the same,” said Quilesreyes. “These are opportunities to show them and find a way to stand out from our peers.”
Standing out and exceeding Marine Corps standards in a positive way can be beneficial to a Marine in the long run if he or she is put up for a meritorious promotion board, or for awards and recognition. Quilesreyes said that it is rewarding to be part of a strong team and influential in a good way on junior enlisted in addition to the other benefits.
“NCOs are the future,” said Schmitt. “We need to coach, mentor, and train them to be the future staff noncommissioned officers and senior leadership of the Marine Corps.”