CAMP FOSTER, Japan - Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, the commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force, addressed Marines and sailors Sept. 11, 13 and 16–18 during a series of all-hands briefings at Marine Corps installations to issue his guidance and commander’s intent for III MEF.
Wissler’s intent is to make III MEF the most ready and capable warfighting MEF in the Marine Corps and to continually improve every day through focused ethical leadership at every level of the MEF.
“III MEF represents a significant combat capability in the region,” said Wissler. “We are here, we are ready, and we can get into the fight quickly: all attributes appreciated by every commander in the region.”
Wissler challenged the Marines and sailors to focus on four primary objectives in order to reach the desired end state: be prepared to fight tonight and win; be ready to respond to any crisis and make a difference; be partner-enabled in everything III MEF does; and value the contribution from every member of the force while eliminating risk to mission and people.
“Less than one-half of one percent of the people in America have ever served in the Marine Corps,” said Wissler. “You are part of that tiny percentile. You all volunteered to come serve your military in the Marine Corps when you could have done anything else. You chose the tougher path, and I am proud to serve alongside each of you.”
Wissler addressed junior enlisted, noncommissioned officers and staff noncommissioned and commissioned officers separately at each camp, targeting his message to each group.
“Junior Marines need to understand the big picture,” said Cpl. Annie R. Bolda, a field radio operator with G-6, communications, III MEF. “After this brief, I understand why we are here and what our future goals are in the Asia-Pacific theater.”
The commanding general and senior enlisted advisors also emphasized the importance of individual Marines and sailors seeking and achieving tactical brilliance at their jobs and, as leaders, paying special attention to the importance of peer leadership.
“Peer leadership is the hardest because peer leadership is leadership from which you have no position of authority,” said Wissler. “You simply have to do what is right and convince the other Marine or sailor that it is right – all the while setting the example through intrusive leadership.”
Wissler went on to explain that there are high-risk behaviors that he will not tolerate, and this zero tolerance perspective applies to all members of III MEF.
“The worst high-risk behavior that I have zero tolerance for is sexual assault,” said Wissler. “Not specifically because it’s a hot topic in Washington, D.C., not because it has the nation’s attention, and not solely because it is a heinous act, but because sexual assault tears at the very fabric of warfighting readiness. Sexual assault is the ultimate disrespect of one Marine by another, and as such it destroys warfighting cohesion by disintegrating trust between warriors.”
Exceptional warfighting readiness is the end state for all III MEF actions, and it can only be accomplished through job proficiency and strong leadership, according to Wissler.
“In order to be ready, I want you to seek tactical brilliance,” said Wissler. “When improving job proficiency and leadership come to the forefront of your mind, you will have to demand excellence of yourself and your fellow Marines, and enforce all standards at all times. You have to focus on your training, on eliminating your weaknesses individually and collectively, and then improve your strengths.”
Sgt. Maj. Steven D. Morefield, the sergeant major of III MEF, wanted the junior Marines to understand how much of an impact their actions have on not only their personal future but the futures of the Marines to their left and right and III MEF as a whole.
“When General Wissler said we would be talking to lance corporals first, I thought this was great,” said Morefield. “I was excited because you are the group who has the biggest influence on the Marines and sailors you serve with. I know this from personal experience when I was a private first class. When lance corporals correct their peers and stop them from doing something potentially harmful to themselves or to their career, you are not simply changing that moment of time in their lives. In many cases you are positively changing the rest of their life and giving them the opportunity to achieve great success in the Marine Corps and in life."
“These conversations cannot end here. So please take these discussions back to the barracks, your home, or wherever you live,” added Morefield. “Talk to your fellow Marines and sailors about it, and let our III MEF commander’s intent be a living document.”
Wissler finished the brief explaining the difference he saw between Marines and the other branches in a combat zone.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the commandant gave me the privilege of serving 34 months in Iraq,” said Wissler. “I saw a lot of great units. I saw some incredibly capable (U.S.) Army units. Let me tell you though, nobody has a warfighting ethos like Marines.”