MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Throughout the storied history of the Marine Corps, noncommissioned officers have proven their quality and leadership with acts of valor and heroism.
Now the most decorated regiment, 5th Marines, is taking proactive steps to ensure today’s NCOs carry on the high standards set by their predecessors, with a renewed emphasis on mentorship through professional military education sessions here, Sept. 20.
“We have some top notch Marines,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Politte, the 5th Marines Headquarters Company first sergeant. “The NCOs here are hungry, and they want to lead.”
Politte, a native of Papillion, Neb., led a PME for more than 150 corporals and sergeants within the company. He discussed small-unit leadership and the roles and responsibilities of the Marines. The open format allowed them to ask questions and learn directly from their first sergeant.
“We never had access to senior staff NCOs like we do now,” said Sgt. Daniel Greenberg, the company’s motor transportation maintenance chief. “They are making themselves available not just to individuals but to the entire company. The purpose of this is we get information directly from the first sergeant and his direction and where he sees our company needing to go.”
Three months ago, the regiment mandated a PME be taught every Friday on various topics. The sessions are focused on empowering the regiment’s small-unit leaders while developing better NCOs, staff NCOs and officers.
“The more we focus on leadership development, the better we are going to become,” Politte said. “It’s not just the Marine Corps we are developing, it’s developing the whole of society.”
Since Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom started more than a decade ago, Marines with the regiment have been in a constant cycle of deployments. The servicemembers focused on their predeployment training program and the next combat operation. With operations slowing down in the Middle East, the Marines are now focusing more on developing new leaders and bettering the current ones.
Many of the servicemembers developed their leadership traits when they joined the Marine Corps. The additional time for PMEs adds another tool to refine their leadership style.
“I’ve always had an urge to lead and be in charge,” said Cpl. Riley Thompson, a regimental instruction facility instructor with the company. “I don’t think I always had leadership skills. There were definitely some growing pains as I developed them in the Marine Corps.”
Thompson, a native of Steamboat Springs, Colo., said he adjusted as a leader from initially being hesitant to correct Marines to being overly corrective. He found a balance as he developed as a leader and hopes the regiment’s renewed emphasis will help continue to develop him and his Marines.
“Looking at it as an NCO and as a leader, I definitely think it’s a great idea,” Thompson said. “I’ve noticed a greater focus on mentorship than I’ve seen in the seven years I’ve been in.”
The emphasis will help grow the Marines both personally and professionally, creating a stronger Marine Corps.
“Small-unit leadership is the foundation of the Marine Corps,” Greenberg said. “It’s impossible to accomplish the thousands of different tasks throughout the day without the leadership and supervision all the NCOs provide.”
The Marines are willing to stay a little later Friday’s because they understand it is better for them and their Marines. The teaching sessions help educate the servicemembers on unknown topics or refresh a lesson they learned years ago.
“All the older Marines say we are a smarter generation than they were,” Greenberg said. “We hope the next generation of Marines are smarter and more capable than we are. I think the weekly PMEs are only going to make a smarter and stronger Marine Corps.”
The PME program is one way the Fighting Fifth is carrying on the traditions set by past NCOs to ensure the next generation of Marines is in good hands.