More than 100 sergeants major, master gunnery sergeants, and master chief petty officers with I Marine Expeditionary Force gathered for a senior enlisted symposium at Camp Pendleton April 7-8, 2016.
The event covered topics consisting of leadership development, troop welfare, and obstacles the Corps is facing. Gen. Peter Pace, retired, was featured as the guest speaker to share his experience as a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
While the symposium covered a wide variety of issues, Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal, sergeant major, I MEF, was clear on what he expected Marines and sailors to gain from the discussions.
“I would like for them to be able to collectively, as E-9s, talk about important issues that affect Marines and sailors within the MEF,” said Kasal. “I want them to further camaraderie and Esprit de Corps amongst themselves, and I want them to professionally develop in topics relevant in the Marine Corps and strategy that are operationally and service relevant.”
During the gathering, Marines broke into groups with each one discussing ethics, leadership development and styles, and ways to improve unit readiness.
“This whole symposium has been very insightful,” said Sgt. Maj. Steven Burkett, sergeant major, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. “We’re able to pick each other’s brains and see if other units are facing similar problems. If they are, is their way more effective, if so, how are they handling it compared to how I am?”
One recurring theme discussed at the seminar was the need for senior enlisted to ensure their opinions are voiced when asked by commanders.
During his speech, Pace spoke about the strong relationship between a commander, his senior enlisted advisor, and the responsibilities senior enlisted Marines have to keep their commanders true.
“Every single job I’ve had, a senior enlisted was by my side guiding me,” said Pace. “It is your job as advisors to make sure your commander stands their ground against outside influences. As a commander, it’s hard to look in your senior enlisted advisor’s eyes and disappoint them, so you have a tremendous responsibility.”
Pace also hit on the importance of Marines returning to combined-arms-skills training.
“We took Baghdad in three weeks because we had spent more than 10 years training our combined-arms-skills,” said Pace. “Our Corps has to take itself back to the highest potential. The time to train is coming back.”
As the symposium came to a close, Kasal offered parting words to all of the participants.
“Be there for your commanders, but even more so be there for your Marines and sailors,” said Kasal. “You are their spokesperson, you are their mentor, you are their coach, you are their leader, and you are the one that shapes their career, shapes their [military occupational specialty] proficiency.”
As the room began to clear, participants could be seen gathering in bunches and discussed lessons learned from the symposium. Armed with fresh ideas, these enlightened Marines and sailors can return to their commands better prepared to lead, mentor and develop the next generation of professional warfighters.