USS FORT MCHENRY --
Marines face danger and criticism daily both on and off the battlefield. Some may think being a Marine means to seek out these dangers in all of its shapes and forms. In truth, being a Marine simply means to have courage. Courage defined by the Marine Corps is having the ability to recognize our fear of the dangers and criticisms that lie before us and to proceed in the face of such fear with calmness and firmness. This is what it means to be courageous; this is what it means to be a Marine.
"You see it in the civilian world as well," said 1st Sgt. Jose Guerreiro-Pereira, the company first sergeant of the Ground Combat Element for Security Cooperation Task Force, Africa Partnership Station 2012. "We've all seen or heard about stories of civilians taking action in the face of danger, whether it was helping out law enforcement officers or running into a burning building or maybe saving a family from an overturned car that's on fire. I think those people possess the same traits that we do.
Guerreiro-Pereira, a 34-year-old native of Harrison, New Jersey, has spent over 16 years rising through the ranks of the United States Marine Corps, gaining a greater understanding of courage and the traits which define a leader.
"As a leader I'm faced with many decisions I have to make about my Marines on a daily basis," said Guerreiro. "Some are easy calls to make, some are not. The decisions I make and the recommendations I forward to my Commanding Officer have to be for the good of the service and in keeping with preserving good order and discipline. As for my Marines, it's important for them to display courage, because I need them to be ready both physically and mentally at all times."
"It's not difficult to ask that of them," Guerreiro continued. "It's instilled in us, and it’s part of our bloodline; it's in the mindset of the type of people who join the military, I think it's a natural thing among us."
Keeping his Marines constantly physically and mentally prepared proved invaluable recently, when Guerreiro's Marines found themselves training alongside Marines from France's 3rd Marine Regiment at the stone-walled fortress, Fort de Penthievre in Brittany, France.
"We're Marines, but we're not immortal; we're subject to our own fears," said Guerreiro. "For example, some Marines are scared of heights and on that day they scaled the wall of a castle, they rappelled down the wall of a castle. The Commando Course culminated with in hand-to-hand combat with the French Marines, which took courage. You're sitting there, putting the gloves on, the headgear, and you're getting in the ring with a French Marine and you're going toe to toe. I wasn't sure if the Marines understood going into France that day, that their manhood would be tested, but it certainly was and it was amazing to watch and be a part of."
Guerreiro attributes his concept of courage with being influenced by the book "On Combat" written by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman (US Army Ret.). Guerreiro summarizes his take on the book by explaining that should there be a generation without teachers, lawyers or even doctors, our society and country would be fine and continue to function as it does today, but if there was ever a generation without men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country, then the breed of men and women in our military as it is known today would no longer exist.
"Society wouldn't function the way it does if we didn't have law enforcement officers and we didn't have military members who were willing to put their lives on the line for their country, their state, their city or town," said Guerreiro. "We wouldn't be the great country that we are."
Guerreiro goes on to describe today's breed of military members as a warrior class that is unlike the average citizen.
"It's that warrior breed, either it's in you or it's not," said Guerreiro. "We are all a little different, all of us. The protectors of freedom, law enforcement and military members. Your natural born instinct is to run away from fire, peril, and danger, yet we run towards it."
"It's overcoming and facing fear, that's courage," said Guerreiro.