AL ASAD, Iraq -- Time and time again, the Marine Corps’ senior leaders remind anyone willing to listen that noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the Corps.
At Al Asad, Iraq, a group of NCOs are demonstrating that fact, taking charge of a base improvement project aimed at making down time and physical training a little more enjoyable.
Corporals Thomas E. Burns and Allen K. Jones, along with fellow NCOs, refurbished a basketball court near the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing headquarters.
The Marines installed new backboards, repainted the court and built new benches in a five-day span despite commitment to their normal jobs and other projects.
“The NCO rank is a take charge rank,” said Jones, the 2nd MAW future operations chief. “(We made) it a regulation court.”
Taking the initiative to complete the project is something the acting sergeant major for Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2 likes to see in his Marines.
The Deuce has been a pioneer for a new NCO mentorship program. It encourages NCOs to make themselves a part of their Marines’ lives, professionally and personally. Having NCOs go above and beyond in a combat zone is a reflection of the program’s impact.
“(The program) instills in the minds of our NCOs how important it is for us to set the example,” said Burns, the 2nd MAW personnel noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “We have high-quality NCOs who are willing to take charge and lead.”
The Marines who worked on the improvements needed a high level of initiative to complete the task. In addition to conflicting work schedules, the team often found themselves without the supplies they needed.
“Everyday we would run into a small problem,” Burns said. “We wouldn’t let that get in the way. We would go out looking for what we needed or pool our minds together to figure out a solution.”
Markedly absent from the basketball-court laboring were Marines below the rank of corporal. That’s exactly the point, said Jones.
“Junior Marines are tasked with a lot of the things that no one wants to do,” he said. “Instead of using them, I decided it would be a way of setting an example. It shows anything we task them with, we would do ourselves.”
The improvements to the basketball court were immediately noticed. On Sept. 15, the morning after the project was completed, the court was already a hit. To those involved, the project was one of many improvements NCOs have made to Al Asad.
“Since I deployed back in February, I have seen many NCOs taking the lead role out here,” Burns said. “This base has seen many positive structural changes and safety measures put into place. It has happened because we have some great NCOs who want to take charge and lead their Marines to accomplish missions.”