MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Being a force in readiness means the Marine Corps is ready and able to deploy at any given time, to answer its nation’s call. As demonstrated in recent years with combat operations during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, and humanitarian missions like Operation Tomodachi in Japan, the Marine Corps has set the standard for combat excellence and overall readiness.
With the Marine Corps revitalizing efforts to ensure unit and individual Marine readiness, Sgt. Maj. Octaviano Gallegos, the sergeant major of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, took some time to share his point of view on the importance of Marine Corps readiness.
Q. When we talk about readiness, what does it mean for the individual Marine to be “ready”?
A. “Besides your rifle ranges, pistol ranges, Combat Fitness Tests, Physical Fitness Tests, and making sure you have all your gear, it is important that the Marines are ready. However one thing we tend to not put as much focus on is the family and mental readiness. The biggest thing is that Marines need to be mentally ready. A lot of Marines join the Marine Corps to deploy, but sometimes they go years without deploying, and then when something pops up, they may not be as mentally ready as they should be. So, the mindset has to be there that we can deploy at a moment’s notice. The other one is family readiness, and this is one thing that sometimes you get so caught up in your job that you forget. For example, if you have a Marine who’s having any type of issues at home, where is his mind going to be when he deploys? It’s probably not going to be on the job; instead it’s going to be on, ‘is someone taking care of the family back in the states?’ So when we talk about readiness, yes, it is about the individual, but it is also about unit readiness.”
Q. How does readiness tie in to our expeditionary nature?
A. “The biggest aspect of this (our expeditionary nature) is the blue-green team, and by the blue-green team I mean the Navy side. Expeditionary by nature…we’ve always known that this is in our roots, that we’re a department of the Navy, and that is our primary mode of transportation when things flare up in these different countries that are oceans away. That is why it’s important to keep that relationship. These crises don’t just happen here in the states, or just right down the road. They’re often overseas and we need to keep our relationship with the Navy, why? Because that’s what gets us to these crises at any given time.”
Q. If there were one aspect to focus on for our Marines readiness, what would it be?
A. “I don’t think there is one specific aspect; I think it has to be all aspects. Because you can have a Marine that is mentally ready to deploy, but let’s say he can’t pass a PFT, and then you take him to a place that’s hot and humid that requires him to be physically fit. So there’s not just one place you have to be ready to deploy. Another thing is, everyone is important, and in some cases when you deploy, you don’t take two people from the same Military Occupational Specialty. Sometimes they’re one-of-one. So they must always be ready to deploy, because sometimes they may be the only person who can do that job. That’s why it’s important.”
Q. Speaking to our leaders from senior officers to our Non-Commissioned Officer team leaders, what is their responsibility of leadership to achieving and maintaining readiness?
A. “Whether you’re a second lieutenant or a newly promoted corporal, the whole unit success is based on them. The way I see it, there’s only one kind of leadership, that’s leadership by example. You have to be able to demonstrate to your Marines that you’re willing to do what they are doing, whether you are a second lieutenant or brand new corporal. You’ve got to look after them because they are the key to the success of the mission. They are the ones junior Marines look up to, from the moment a Marine is promoted to NCO, staff NCO, or officer, they’re somebody’s mentor, and those young Marines are looking up to them for guidance, for leadership and a lot of times just someone to talk to. And that is that NCOs, SNCOs and officers role and the key for unit success.”
Q. What current events highlight the importance of readiness for the Marines?
A. “Well, if anybody turns the news on, they can probably hear all about it. You’ve got the Iraq thing kicking off with ISIS, that’s a worldwide threat. Another thing popping up now is the Ebola crisis out of the continent of Africa. So there’s just a lot of world unrest and that emphasizes readiness. Why? Because it’s not just a continental threat, it’s a worldwide threat. We’ve done the OIF thing, and now we’re going back to it looking at the ISIS threat and now the Ebola case here in the US. That is the reason we need to be ready for anything. A couple of things we’ve been doing as a MEB to get ready for some of these crisis, are the large scale exercises we have coming up, such as exercises Africa Lion, Bold Alligator and Judicious Response. All these things are preparation for situations that might pop up in the world that involves crisis response.”
Q. The Marine Corps has always been ready to answer the nations call, so why is there so much excitement now about ensuring readiness?
A. “Two words: world unrest. You look at all these countries, and you turn on the news at any given time and there’s always unrest. The operational tempo the Marine Corps has right now, is not going to stop or slow down. Yeah we’ve withdrew from OIF, and we’re drawing back from OEF, but as you can see, things keep popping up in the world, so the operational tempo is enormous, and there is always world unrest. Every time something happens, it’s just like the bumper sticker says, we are ‘America’s 911 force.’ And we’re always there, why? Because we can do it and we can sustain ourselves for any period of time, and that is why I think there is such a focus on ensuring readiness.”
Q. Anything you would like to add or final comments?
A. “As a sergeant major, I’d like to think that the biggest thing that we do here at the 2nd MEB, is look after Marines, and I guarantee you that the Marines get looked after. We can spend millions of dollars on equipment, airplanes and tanks, but the biggest assets that we have are the individual Marines. Without that individual Marine, all that other stuff isn’t going to work. We look after them, and we take care of them. Why? So they can continue to be ready to deploy at any given time. Marines join the Marine Corps to deploy, and chances are, if they stick around long enough, they will get that chance. People always like to criticize the new generation and I’m here to tell you, I think the new generation is a good generation. They’ve answered the call to duty and you can see the examples and read in the newspapers all the great things these young men and woman are doing, and will continue to do. So my closing remark is, we have a good Marine Corps, we just have to keep with our traditions and keep looking after the young ones.”