AL QA’IM, Iraq --
Small unit leadership has very much been a cornerstone of the Marine Corps, stemming back to the roots of its existence. Even in modern-day warfare, it is still the squad leaders and section leaders that are winning the fight from the front.
In order to recognize the accomplishments and sacrifices of their small unit leaders, the Betio Bastards of Task Force 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 5, have implemented a program that bestows a unique honor, the title of “Bone Crusher.”
Currently on their third deployment to Iraq, the Betio Bastards have amassed a host of experienced and proficient leaders, and the battalion is seeing to it that the Marines know their actions do not go unnoticed.
“With a battalion of nine nundred-plus Marines, you can’t be everywhere, but those Marines are everywhere,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Thomas, the battalion sergeant major of Task Force 3rd Bn., 2nd Marines. “(Marines) will take your leadership and guidance, but it’s the sergeants, corporals and even lance corporals, the small unit leadership, that gets it done.”
Every month while deployed, the battalion first sergeants nominate a stellar performer from their company to go up for the newly coveted award.
“It’s a hard choice,” Thomas said. “I’ll choose them based on what they’ve done and how important it was to the battalion. It could be for something like preventing an (escalation of force). It all depends.”
The program not only gives small unit leaders a chance to be recognized for their hard work but gives junior Marines a goal to strive for.
“If I was not a squad leader, I would constantly want to be one,” Thomas said. “It’s not an official award, but it’s from within. It’s something to shoot for. It’s something that’s relevant to 3/2, and I’m good with that.”
The battalion sergeant major travels across the area of operations here in Al Qa’im, Iraq, every month to hold an unofficial, yet meaningful, ceremony for the battalion’s newest “Bone Crusher.”
The award title may seem awkward to some, but to the Betio Bastards it is their own, developed from within.
“For me, I like to call the squad leaders and section leaders bone crushers and the rest of the Marines destroyers, but we’re all Bastards,” Thomas said.
The sergeant major presents a plaque, certificate and coin to each recipient of the award. Although, acquiring the sought-after title of “Bone Crusher” is all the recognition these top Marines need for a job well done.
A little recognition can go a long way. Especially for those Marines who are paving the way for the future of the Marine Corps.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Thomas said. “It’s all about small unit leadership.”