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1st Marine Division Combat Camera developed a number of posters to promote the Protect What You Earned campaign as championed by Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, to get Marines talking about thoughtful decision-making. The commandant’s vision is to preserve the Corps’ combat readiness by ensuring individual Marines succeed in their careers and personal lives.

Photo by Cpl. William Perkins

Protect What You’ve Earned: 1st Marine Division localizes campaign

22 Apr 2016 | Cpl. William Perkins 1st Marine Division

Force protection is one of the six warfighting functions common to Marine Corps planning for operations abroad, and it can be just as important to consider while in garrison.

Marines with the 1st Marine Division are engaging and empowering leaders at all levels to take responsibility for their own well-being and that of those around them by promoting the commandant’s Protect What You’ve Earned campaign through a series of initiatives locally instituted recently.

In September 2015 Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, began talking about his vision to preserve the Corps’ combat readiness by ensuring individual Marines succeed in their careers and personal lives.

The commandant forecasts a more effective fighting force in the future through individuals considering the repercussions of their personal behavior in alcohol-related situations, which can help decrease the frequency of Marines being associated with acts that can end a career or even a life.

 “We know statistically, when you look at all the things that happen to Marines, whether it’s accidents, sexual assault, suicide, illegal drug use, domestic abuse, that alcohol is a significant player in a lot of those,” Neller said. “My hypothesis is; if I can get Marines to be more responsible with alcohol then those other things will go down.”

To comply with the commandant’s guidance, one tactic the Division is using to make Marines aware of PWYE is a poster campaign designed to resonate with the target demographic—Marines and Sailors age 18-24. The posters connect with the audience using visual references to movies like “Gladiator” and “The Fast and The Furious,” but are altered to depict negative situations Marines may be involved in when not thinking about the consequences of drinking.

“We’ve received a lot of good feedback about the posters,” said Sgt. Elize McKelvey, a production specialist with Headquarters Company, Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, who helped design the posters. “When we released them, we took them into a Corporals Course class to get constructive criticism and they liked the unique, customized approach as opposed to generic Marine Corps-style posters.”

The posters made an immediate impact in the area they were displayed.

“Marines have already told me that if they found themselves in a negative situation and looked at the posters, they would think twice about what they were about to do,” McKelvey added.

The posters serve as an everyday reminder to Marines and Sailors to avoid the risk of dangerous alcohol use and to be ready when the nation calls for the support of the 1st Marine Division.

“Marines and Sailors are demanded to, ‘be ready when the nation in least ready’,” said Sgt. Maj. William Sowers, the 1st Marine Division sergeant major. “If Marines and Sailors are making decisions that keep them from being prepared to answer the call, someone else could be put at risk because of those choices, and a unit could potentially deploy shorthanded.”

Sowers is pushing the PWYE campaign a step in the right direction to ensure division Marines and Sailors engage in behaviors that protect the investments they’ve made in their careers and in themselves.

“Every Marine and Sailor deserves the opportunity to succeed,” said Sowers. “They want to succeed while serving as well as succeed once they transition back to their civilian life.”

For active duty service members who may have an issue with alcohol abuse the Substance Abuse Counseling Center aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, has services available to provide timely and effective substance abuse prevention, education, and counseling to get Marines back on track for successful careers and healthy lifestyles.

The center sponsors “Prime for Life” classes to educate Marines on more effective ways to make better choices about alcohol and the effects its abuse may have on a Marine and potentially their family and friends. The evidence-based program stresses self-assessment to help those Marines who haven’t been exposed to the issues associated with drinking to identify a drinking problem early. Leaders at 1st Marine Division made it mandatory for all hands to attend one of the sessions.

“The military is filled with people from all different types of backgrounds who may not have been taught the basics [about] these substances,” said Nancy Shell, a drug and alcohol prevention specialist with the Camp Pendleton SACC. “This program’s purpose is to educate our military members on substance abuse and to give them guidelines to use to make better choices based on real [statistics of] how these substances affect us.”

Unlike Prime for Life, which uses a classroom setting to get the information to the service members, PWYE isn’t a program with policies and training packages but instead a mindset mitigating the risk of alcohol-related incidents and promotes thoughtful decision making. The commandant’s vision is for Marines to watch each other’s back and talk about the consequences of their actions.

Marines and Sailors with the Division also have another outlet to explore their own creative approaches to the PWYE campaign.

The Marine Corps Association is sponsoring an essay contest inspired by the campaign which can earn participants awards of up to $300 through the Blue Diamond Unit Award Writing Program. Writers can submit their essays through their company first sergeants and battalion sergeants major.

Through conversation, accountability, and emphasizing PWYE at the individual level, the leadership at 1st Marine Division is aligning its efforts with the commandant’s, aiming to realize a decrease in the number of Marines finding themselves in negative situations, leading to a more effective force in readiness.

1st Marine Division