CAMP LESTER, Okinawa - The III Marine Expeditionary Force held its Marine Corps birthday ball Nov. 8 at the Butler Officers’ Club at Camp Foster with a rare, but special guest of honor in attendance.
Sgt. Michael D. Mansholt, a military policeman with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF, was chosen by the commanding general of III MEF to be this year’s guest of honor at the ball because of his outstanding leadership qualities, both on and off duty.
“The leadership of our sergeants and corporals is critical to accomplishing the Marine Corps’ mission, and therefore we have chosen to highlight the importance of our noncommissioned officers by inviting one of our best to be the guest of honor,” said Lt. Gen. John Wissler, the III MEF commanding general.
Recently, the commandant of the Marine Corps met with senior Marine Corps leaders, both officer and enlisted, to gather ideas about how to improve the Corps.
“Of the nearly 174,000 enlisted Marines on active duty today, more than 144,000 are sergeants and below,” said Wissler. “NCOs are the backbone of the Corps, and they are the main effort in ‘reawakening’ the Corps. We want our Marines to care for themselves, their fellow Marines, civilians, and their families.”
“We want to reset our war-fighting institution after a decade of war and foster a ‘reawakening’ within our ranks,” added Wissler.
After the cake-cutting ceremony, Wissler introduced Mansholt to the audience as an outstanding Marine, war-fighter, family man and the epitome of an NCO. Mansholt had a special message in mind for his address at the ball regarding the future of NCOs in the Marine Corps.
Before Mansholt addressed the audience, he quoted the commandant’s “reawakening” letter to which he tailored his message.
“The commandant said, ‘those who aren’t living up to the title Marine within our midst are disrupting the return to immediate readiness, soiling our honor, and causing the American people to lose trust in us!” said Mansholt. “The more I thought about it, I kept coming back to the same thought, ‘what is the difference between the noncommissioned officer of today and the noncommissioned officer of the 1990s?”
“As a whole, corporals and sergeants of today are accomplishing some of the same missions and tasks as (those of the 1990s), but there are differences,” added Mansholt.
Mansholt enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1991, and as a sergeant in 1998 he opted for a civilian career. However, Mansholt returned in 2008.
“I decided to come back to the Marine Corps to benefit my family, and quite frankly, I missed leading Marines,” said Mansholt.
Noncommissioned officers of the nineties were trained to lead in a no-combat environment, where attention to detail and inspections were a day-to-day occurrence, according to Mansholt.
“As the commandant of the Marine Corps has recently stated, strong leadership at all levels is crucial to our continued success,” said Wissler. “We must make our noncommissioned officers the main effort. They are on the front lines of leadership.”
Mansholt posed a question to the audience, predominately made up of officers and senior enlisted Marines, asking how the Marine Corps can bridge the gap between the NCOs of the past and those of today?
“In order to keep the NCOs on track, we need to mentor our corporals and sergeants and provide them with situational and life guidance,” said Mansholt. “We need to allow our corporals and sergeants the opportunity to accomplish the mission without standing over their shoulder, but to understand that (staff NCOs and officers) need to be there to help guide them.”
Mansholt was recently selected for promotion to staff sergeant due in part to his success as an NCO and for his commitment to esprit de corps.
“The III MEF commanding general desired to invite the sergeant to be the guest of honor to illustrate to all the Marines that our NCOs are critical to the success of our MEF and our Corps,” said Sgt. Maj. Steven D. Morefield, the III MEF sergeant major. “What better way to recognize a young, motivated leader than to have him as the guest of honor? As we reawaken our ranks, the Corps must not fall into a ‘garrison mentality’ as we transition from more than a decade of continuous combat; rather, this is the time to reset and prepare for future battles that we will inevitably be called on to fight.”