CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — As the Marine Corps winds down from more than 10 years of war, senior enlisted leaders in the 1st Marine Division are transitioning their units away from pre-deployment training and focusing their efforts on the basics of what it means to be a Marine.
“The modern battlefield has taken us in a different direction,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael L. Kufchak, the 1st Marine Division sergeant major. “Although we need to continuously push towards ever changing environments and an ever changing battlefield, there is just something that we have to constantly maintain… and that’s our core competencies.”
Kufchak hosted a summit for the highest ranking enlisted Marines in the Division to emphasize the return to Marine Corps fundamentals here, May 17. During the daylong meeting, sergeants major and master gunnery sergeants gathered to receive the latest information and guidance concerning re-enlistments, administration, the implications of the drawdown, and dealing with disciplinary issues within the command. They also shared their broad experiences and opinions.
Kufchak wants the Marines and sailors under his charge to take more pride in being service members in their units and in the Division. That includes looking sharp in their uniforms, practicing drill, learning Marine Corps history and conducting more physical training as a unit, he said.
“I think what we’re faced with is reteaching of the institution in our most basic fundamentals of being Marines and sailors,” Kufchak added. “That’s what we’re trying to rehone and refurbish right now. We are held to a much higher standard and people expect a lot. All eyes are on us as Marines and sailors in the United States Marine Corps. There is a certain level of expectation that goes with that that people hold us to, and it’s getting the Marines to understand that because of us being put on this pedestal… we have to meet that expectation.”
In order to influence all of the Marines throughout the ranks, Kufchak started with the senior enlisted Marines, because they could pass down the information to their units and continually provide the leadership needed for the transition.
“All eyes are on us as senior enlisted leaders of this division,” explained Kufchak. “Marines look up to us. They want to be us, they want to emulate us, they want to get to where we’ve arrived at in life. Any and everything we do sets and telegraphs a message to every Marine that is junior to us on down the ranks.”
Kufchak invited all Marines in the pay grade E-9. The Marine Corps has two senior enlisted ranks with different roles. The sergeant major advises the commanding officer on administrative and personnel issues, while the master gunnery sergeant provides tactical and operational expertise. The two ranks don’t see each other often, and training among the two ranks is rare, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles K. Eckhoff, the 1st Marine Division operations chief.
Kufchak hosted the summit for both leaders to come together and back each other up, and he emphasized that they both have the same leadership responsibilities even though their roles are different.
“It’s good to have this community come together, look at each other in the eye, and get synchronized in the Division,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Don W. Oliveira, the operations chief for 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
After the summit, the senior leadership will return to their units and host leadership symposiums, said Kufchak. The information should trickle down the units, with staff non-commissioned officers taking on more responsibility for their Marines and implementing the changes. It a task that should come naturally to each Marine because core values and leadership are emphasized from recruit training.
“Every generation of Marine has been faced with adversity,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael P. Woods, the sergeant major for 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “Every generation has been resilient and able to give the next generation of Marine a stronger Corps.”