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Senior enlisted Marines and sailors throughout Marine Corps Forces Command, pose for a photo during annual Sergeant Major, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Master Chief Symposium at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 3, 2011. The seasoned vets covered a multitude of topics that military personnel and their families deal with on a daily basis. (U.S. Marine Corps photograph by: Cpl. Matthew P. Troyer.)

Photo by Cpl. Matthew P. Troyer

Who Makes The Rules? East Coast Corps gather to discuss Policy

9 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Andrew D. Johnston

Are the five-fingered “Avatar” running shoes authorized to wear during physical training? Should Marines with children be allowed to pick them up from daycare or school facilities out in town without having to change into civilian attire?

Senior enlisted Marines and sailors throughout Marine Corps Forces Command, attended the annual Sergeant Major, Master Gunnery Sergeant and Master Chief Symposium at the Marston Pavilion aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 3, 2011. Issues like the above were put in the hot seat and hashed out for a week.

With more than 165 leaders in attendance, Gunnery Sgt. Jerry Pennington, administration chief for II Marine Expeditionary Force staff secretary, said the group left no stone unturned. They covered a vast multitude of topics that military personnel and their families deal with on a daily basis, he said.

“They’re broken into groups and each group has a certain number of agenda items that they research and discuss options,” said Pennington. “They try to figure out whether or not it should go up to the Headquarters of the Marine Corps or the commandant to fix the issue and if not; why not?”

From as far north as the tip of Maine all the way down to southern Florida, the massive group of seasoned vets professionally gave their expertise on each subject.

Sgt. Maj. Matthew V. Wilhelm, sergeant major for Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, said the event was one of the year’s tipping points that ultimately unified all senior enlisted members from the East Coast on matters frequently being questioned in the Corps.

“We got together and made an impact on the Marine Corps,” explained Wilhelm. “The future of the Marine Corps is based off our decisions as leaders to shape policy that makes sense for Marines and their families. We’re here to implement a better Corps for the up and coming Marines and sailors.”

Wilhelm said his true belief was that junior Marines were the ones who actually made the most impact on procedures and regulations. Although most Marines and sailors thought their voices where unheard, he and other leaders wanted people to know even the smallest concerns were being addressed. To him the event was a key factor in giving families the resources and tools for keeping their warriors combat ready.

“The operation tempo of the Marine corps over the past 10 years has been very fast,” said Wilhelm. “Every junior Marine needs to understand that in order for us to function at 100 percent as a Corps, we need to know what you and your families think. Fortunately for us, we have had tremendous amounts of feedback from Marines and families, which allows us to take on all of these issues.”

Wilhelm talked about how the gathering had a positive outcome. With the amount of solutions that came from the event, he said the symposium should run more than once a year.

“This has been very, very beneficial and it should probably be done more often,” said Wilhelm. “Future sergeant majors and master gunnery sergeants need to know and understand about this process. Lance corporals and private first classes need to understand the impact they have and where the rules come from. If we don’t hear about it, we can’t discuss it. We are here to make sure the Marine Corps and our families are moving forward in a positive direction.”