MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Col. Vincent R. Stewart, commanding officer for Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, spoke with the Marines and sailors of his battalion at the Area 5 Gym here, July 13 and 14.
Stewart outlined what he expected from the battalion at three separate meetings over two days. He emphasized the need for staff non-commissioned officers and NCOs to work together with junior Marines and sailors to unify the battalion.
He made it clear that he expects to command one battalion, not two or three.
“There’s an expression that there is a battalion east of the arch and west of the arch,” said the Chicago native, referring to the fact that the different sections within the battalion are split into two different areas. “I was asked to come here and command one battalion of Marines and sailors who all report here for duty.”
This need for teamwork is driven by a principle Marines pride themselves in daily, mission accomplishment. An integral part of every Marine’s job is carrying out the mission despite any obstacles.
“There is only one way we can go off and do what we think we are going to do next year,” said the 1976 graduate of Sullivan High school. “Only if we come together as one battalion working for one goal and one purpose; everyone pulling on the rope from the same end.”
Stewart said he will not allow any division within the battalion. Any attitude that allows for
a separated battalion, he said, is inherently flawed and at odds with the battalion’s mission.
“I won’t accept a battalion divided by any imaginary or arbitrary lines,” he told his staff NCOs. “Anytime we act as two separate entities, with an ‘us versus them attitude,’ we can’t come together as a unit to get ready for combat operations.”
Stewart firmly believes in the mission and its goal. He has a clear view of the task before the battalion.
“We have one mission, one goal here: to train, mentor, develop, and prepare Marines for combat and bring back as many as possible,” the husband and father of five said. “To bring all of them back is the goal.”
Stewart felt that some Marines and sailors had more loyalty to the section they work in than to the battalion. He wanted to dispel this attitude which he feels is misplaced.
“Everyone’s pulling on the rope the same way,” said the Naval War college graduate. “We shouldn’t have an attitude of ‘I belong to this section or that section.’ All of us belong to this battalion. It’s all our battalion and we’re all responsible for its success and failure.”
In order to execute this mission, Stewart has charged staff NCOs and NCOs with the task. What he is asking for, he says, is nothing new.
“I want you to do what staff NCOs and NCOs have always done. You have the responsibility to train and mentor those young men and women who come in to serve.”
Stewart, like so many before him, feels the NCOs are an integral part of the Corps. They have the job of leading those Marines junior to them.
“The NCOs are the backbone of the Marine Corps,” he said. “NCOs are here to train and lead Marines, whether in combat or in garrison.”
This leadership is an essential part of Stewart’s plan to unify the battalion. It will be crucial for the battalion’s future mission accomplishment in garrison and while deployed.
“The only way a unit can be successful is if they have a strong staff NCO and NCO corps,” he said. “They have a huge responsibility to the lance corporals, privates first class and privates who volunteered to come to the Marine Corps to serve their nation during a time of war because they wanted to be among the very best.”
Stewart said that even though the battalion is not like a traditional battalion, it should be prepared to act as an infantry element.
“The mission is to provide transportation, communication, security and life support for the commanding general and his staff,” Stewart said. “We’ll train in basic infantry skills in addition to the job training you receive so that if a crisis develops we are ready.”