MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marine noncommissioned officers dedicate their time and themselves to training Marines. They lead by example, and strive to inspire their junior Marines to the highest standards possible. They make every effort to be patient, understanding, just and firm, and most importantly they encourage and guide wayward Marines.
The Battalion Commander of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Lt. Col Joel Schmidt, relies heavily on NCOs with these qualities within his command to not only be troop handlers and tactical trainers, but to act as brothers, mentors, life coaches and educators as well.
In order to demonstrate his dedication, trust and confidence in the NCO’s as responsible individuals worthy of recognition, Schmidt has created a lounge for the NCOs within the battalion’s command post.
Sergeant Major Jeffrey Craig, the Battalion sergeant major, said the lounge, also known as the NCO Mess, is a place where the NCOs can participate in professional development through discussion, debate and mentorship in an environment that fosters critical thinking and education.
“We handle all of our problems behind the curtain, and we teach each other behind the curtain, everything there really is to know about being an NCO is learned behind the curtain,” said Craig. “The lounge is going to be similar. Professional development really comes from being around your peers and being in a place where you can make the mistakes and ask the questions without your Marines around to hear it.”
A place of belonging, the lounge will become a haven for newly promoted NCOs where they can receive a sense of camaraderie and fellowship, guiding them through their newly gained leadership and responsibility.
Sergeant Christopher MacDonald, the battalion color sergeant said that having a lounge represents all of the NCOs in the battalion finally having an established place to come together, and further develop as NCOs.
“It’s for all of us to come together to try and set the tone as NCOs within the battalion. It’ll be more of a professional organization to set a baseline for and a standard on how NCOs are supposed to be acting in the battalion now, and what we will expect from new NCOs when they come in,” said MacDonald.
Craig said that dedicating this lounge is a way to show the NCOs how special they are and how much the command appreciates and relies on the responsibilities that the NCOs take on day-in and day-out.
“It’s special to be an NCO,” said Craig. “They’re the backbone of the Marine Corps and there’s a lot of special trust and confidence that goes along with that. This is a tangible manifestation showing that we think highly enough of them, that they are special, that they are that core leadership and we recognize that with the lounge.”
Craig also said that being an NCO is more than being in that leadership role, but about being a mentor and brother as well, especially since, in his position, he can’t be in every Marine’s life and can’t know them the way the NCOs can.
“It’s not about screaming, anyone can do that, it’s about knowing when not to. It’s about being able to have a conversation with your Marine. Sometimes that means making hard choices for them, but it also means your Marines have faith in you and vice versa,” said Craig.
MacDonald agrees that there are a lot of expectations for Marine NCOs, especially to get involved not only in their Marines lives, but each other’s.
It is for this exact reason that as acting president of the NCO mess, MacDonald has to set the tone for his fellow NCOs and actively listen to them.
“I listen to all of our ideas and create the baseline for how we’re supposed to carry ourselves as NCOs and what approach we want to have towards the junior Marines in the battalion. I also act as the direct link between the NCOs and the Battalion sergeant major and battalion commander,” said MacDonald.
Craig and MacDonald both conclude that the dedication of this lounge shows that the command is really stepping up and showing how much they truly care about their NCOs by giving them a place to come together and have the opportunity to work out any grievances they might have.
Whether they are current NCOs, or newly promoted corporals, all current and future NCOs with 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines can now look forward to having a place to come together, challenge each other and develop as leaders through peer interaction and camaraderie.