CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii --
U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific’s top enlisted leaders gathered Feb. 9 -11 for the 2010 MarForPac Senior Enlisted Symposium on Camp H.M. Smith and Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.
Sgt. Maj. James R. Futrell, MarForPac sergeant major, hosted the event to discuss current operations; address issues Marines face in combat and at home, and give the top enlisted throughout the Pacific the “big picture.”
“What I’ve found, throughout my career, is that gathering all the senior enlisted leaders and exchanging information is invaluable to what we do as leaders,” Futrell said. “MarForPac’s area of operations encompasses two thirds of the Marine Corps. We need to be on the same sheet of music.”
What is typically a Sergeants Major Symposium had a unique twist this year. Futrell requested senior master gunnery sergeants, stationed throughout the Pacific, to attend this year’s symposium in the hope their feed-back would greatly enhance the experience for all involved.
“These are the duty experts and senior enlisted advisors in their fields. My intent was to bring them in so they have a better understanding of what MarForPac expects, and so the (Marine expeditionary forces), bases and stations can come together as one team to support the war fighters. We need their experience to succeed.”
A sentiment shared by the master gunnery sergeants.
“The best part of it was getting to work with our peers and opening the lines of communication,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Steven M. Williams, MarForPac operations chief. “It was an opportunity to get the peers together, sergeants major and master gunnery sergeants, to discuss what concerns MarForPac and prepare for the Headquarters Marine Corps Sergeants Major Symposium later this year. It’s all about being one team.”
During the first day of the symposium, officials with MarForPac’s headquarters element explained how they support the subordinate commands throughout the Pacific region through communications, intelligence and planning support, in addition to the multitude of services MarForPac provides.
“A lot of sergeants major opened their eyes when they saw those briefs from the (different sections),” Williams said. “A lot of Marines don’t know what a headquarters unit does and this was our opportunity to show them how we support them.”
In addition to numerous discussions, such as improving the Marine Corps’ award system and professional military education, Futrell invited officials from various agencies within Headquarters Marine Corps to show the leaders how the Marine Corps is tackling issues with personal protective equipment, weapons, suicide awareness, family readiness and several other topics.
“The information we received from Headquarters Marine Corps was definitely the highlight of the symposium,” Futrell said. “We discussed a great deal of issues Marines worry about on a day-to-day basis. It was very valuable. The information they take back is going to help the Marines and aide their commanders with deciding how to tackle some of those issues.”
One issue in particular piqued the interest of leaders attending the symposium. The Marine Corps is over it 202,000 manpower limit.
“We’re going to be taking a hard look to ensure we are re-enlisting the best of the best,” Williams said. “We are doing well as a Marine Corps. We need to trim some of the fat, but it’s going to ensure only the best, competitive and qualified Marines continue to serve. That’s just one example of the issues we discussed.”
The three-day event culminated with a period of instruction for noncommissioned officers stationed throughout Hawaii.
“They received a lot of similar, and in some cases, the exact same briefs we received,” Futrell said. “It was also a great opportunity for Headquarters Marine Corps to get feed back and take it back with them.”
When all was said and done, all involved received much more than they had bargained for.
“I got far more out of this symposium than I intended,” Futrell said. “One sergeant major came with an empty note pad and by the time he was done, there were only two or three pages left. The wealth of experience in those rooms was worth it in itself. I can’t wait until we do this again.”
Futrell hopes to conduct numerous symposiums throughout the year.