The leadership of non-commissioned officers is vital to the success of the Marine Corps world wide. Marines appointed under them look for guidance through experience and knowledge that NCOs have gained over their career. At Marine Barracks Washington, infantry NCOs have the special challenge of leading ceremonial marchers, a new addition to their usual routine of throwing grenades, shooting weapons, and deploying to war zones.
“It takes these NCOs’ time to adjust after a combat deployment,” said 1st Sgt. Ramon Nash, Alpha Company, former Drill Master at the Barracks. “Many of the NCOs’ have to adjust their leadership styles and take a different approach toward their Marines.”
Wearing dress blues and drilling with an M-1 Garand rifle is a new experience for infantry NCOs who arrive at the Barracks. These NCOs often come for help from Marines under their charge, said Cpl. Javier Hinojosa, 2nd Platoon Guide, Bravo Company.
“Just because I’m a leader doesn’t mean I can’t be led,” said Cpl. Bobby Kling, 1st Platoon Squad Leader, Alpha Company. “I try to be the best at everything that I do. If asking a lance corporal for help is going to make me better, then I have no problem with that.”
Another challenge of transitioning to the Barracks is the way Marines from various infrantry military occupational specialties may have to serve as leaders in marching units comprised mainly of riflemen. As a mortarman taking charge of a platoon of riflemen, Hinojosa must mentor Marines from another MOS. He isn't able to answer many of the questions coming to him from his junior Marines when they ask him about the operating forces.
“I can only lead by a basic example of leadership in the Marine Corps,” said Hinojosa. “I tell Marines they should take what they’ve learned at the Barracks into the fleet.”
Not only is it hard for these NCOs’ to teach young Marines knowledge of the Corps, but transitioning to MBW after seeing the horrors of combat can also be a difficult task.
For both Hinojosa and Kling, the result of combat has made their transition even harder. Both have experienced the physical and mental hardships of war, as both have been awarded purple hearts for injuries inflicted during combat.
“It was kind of hard at first because I couldn’t relate to anybody,” said Hinojosa. “But finally after a couple of weeks I started letting out to staff non-commissioned officers who had experienced the same things I had.”
For Kling, memories of Silownia, Iraq, still haunt his past. While on patrol Kling’s vehicle was hit with shrapnel from many angles with a triple stack of mortars set up by insurgents. The blast left many Marines wounded.
“The barrel of my [machine gun] looked like it had been blown to shreds,” said Kling, “I feel extremely lucky to have made out with such few injuries.”
Though the transition is hard, and these NCOs’ from MBW know it is not a simple task to accomplish. They continue to set the example for their junior Marines by putting long hours into perfecting ceremonial drill.
“Practice makes perfect,” said Kling, “and the more I practice, the better I become.”
Together, Kling and Hinojosa know what it is like to be in both the operating forces and garrison Marine Corps, as well as understand the importance of being at MBW and its significance.
“I take the same amount of pride here as I did out in the fleet,” said Kling. “It’s not the same mission, but it’s equally important.”