MARINE CORPS BASE 29 PALMS, Calif. --
The Marine Corps axiom of adaptability manifests itself in many ways, whether it is through a Marine’s liberal application of duct-tape to fix broken equipment or in one’s ability to move into new roles and take on additional responsibility; the latter however, is a change that often goes unseen. After serving with Weapons platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, during their deployment to Marjah, Afghanistan last year, several Marines who were on their first tour have now been put in charge of their own squads and are tasked with passing on their hard-earned knowledge.
Moving among his Marines at a machine-gun range aboard Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, Calif., is Lance Cpl. Brandon Baia, a squad leader in Weapons platoon, who speaks in a soft and even tone that never goes unheard by his juniors. He moves among his Marines, watching their progress on the range during the battalion’s predeployment training as part of the Enhanced Mojave Viper exercise, May 23, 2011.
Last year, during Baia’s first deployment, he served as a machine-gunner with Company B, but this time around he will not only be responsible for himself, but also for the Marines in his care.
“Last year, I didn’t need to be micromanaged and at first I expected the same from my Marines,” said Baia. “But, they’re not quite there yet – they are getting there though. I’m also learning the importance of gear accountability, not just of yourself, but of your Marines.”
The shift in roles can be trying at times, as it forces a leader to not only have self-discipline, but to expect and foster that trait in those under him, Baia explained. Additionally, a leader isn’t measured by his performance, but by the progress of his juniors.
“My success is their success,” he said. “I’m only as good as these guys. It’s never, do as I say, not as I do – it’s let me show you. I don’t feel like I’m doing my job if my guys aren’t progressing.”
Sgt. Wesley Hillis, a section leader with Weapons platoon, and Baia’s squad leader last year, explained that the change from squad member to unit leader is easily the most challenging adjustment, requiring the Marine to develop a leadership style that fits him and benefits his Marines.
“You always think about how your senior guys trained you,” Hillis said. “You take the traits that you want to emulate and I see that in the guys that were under me last year.”
For the squad leaders within the section, there are countless reasons for why they push themselves and their Marines, but the most consistent explanation is very simple – to get them home safely.
“We’re just trying to get everyone ready so they know what to expect,” said Lance Cpl. Augustuv Haas, a squad leader, whose story follows along the same lines' as Baia's. “That way we can do the job and bring everyone home. Last year it was more of me taking care of myself and now I have these guys to look after, down to their personal needs.”