10 Days With The Sergeant Major

An Unparalleled Perspective
By Daniel R. Gaita

NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the position of any member of the armed forces, the United States Marine Corps, the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense. It seldom, if ever, occurs when a career Marine opens his home to the extended company of a common man and his family. But seldom does sometimes occur. This was not the typical two-hour V.I.P. base tour reserved for members of congress, or distinguished nationals who seek a photo opportunity with our Nation’s highest ranking enlisted Marines in hopes of garnering some added sense of selfimportance. This was anything but. In 1993, he and I were young Lance Corporals (LCpl) preparing to deploy to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope. Fast-forward to 2013, and LCpl Brandon Eckardt has accumulated 23 years of service to the Corps, endured multiple deployment tours and earned the rank Sergeant Major (SgtMaj). When we were young LCpl’s our time together was spent in morning formations, PT runs, multiple field training operations and the occasional off-base period of recreation whereby would welcome those close to him to off-base apartment where his high school sweetheart and young bride would offer up a true example of southern hospitality, friendship and some much-appreciated home cooking.

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Today the SgtMaj remains married to his high school sweetheart who has also endured his entire career, repeated deployments to the combat theater, multiple relocations, and the entire gauntlet of emotions, fears, and hardships that come with being the loyal wife of a loyal Marine while raising a child. Through it all she maintains a steadfast and enduring understanding of the integral role her husband plays in protecting our nation. Following an 11-hour road trip from CT to NC, my wife, children and I were welcomed, yet again, by the same hospitality in what has become an annual reunion. The perspectives gained during this extended stay offered an eyeopening look at the life of a career Marine and his family. A perspective the media outlets are unfortunately missing. In this brief we will focus on how the Marine Corps approaches family issues, accountability amongst their ranks and the challenges it must endure as a result of sequestration, downsizing, and congressionally implemented funding cuts.

Family –
The Corps understands the importance of family and the necessity of ensuring its Marines and their families are cared for during times of crisis, hardship and the unforeseen tragedies that some families endure. In short, if it can happen, the Corps has a plan. Not only is there a plan in place for any family emergency, but moreover, the plan implements accountability and oversight measures to ensure the effectiveness of each “Family Care Plan”. The Corps family care program also has in place a network of qualified professionals that handle mental health and counseling needs. But you won’t hear about that on the major network news programs.

Accountability and Oversight –
Imagine your supervisor in the civilian world calling you into his office to inform you that he was aware you had been given a summons for

driving without a seatbelt, or any other range of involvement with the law. Well, thanks to today’s technology, the Marine Corps leadership is capable of “squaring away its ranks” the moment unit leadership becomes aware one of its members has violated the law. To ensure the continued readiness and effectiveness of the Marine Corps, individual and unit oversight is immediately available, and accountability is fast, effective and direct. Perhaps the same system should be implemented at our Nation and State Capitals? I venture the media has not talked about the effectiveness of this program either.

Sequestration and Budget Cuts –
While our elected members of congress go about approving their pay raises, the Marine Corps is busy re-rationing its available dollars to maintain its mission readiness and effectiveness while simultaneously having to forgo improvements that congress insists, to their constituent voters, have been approved and funded. Yet few of the members on Capitol Hill can even comprehend how their political gamesmanship is impacting every level of the Corps. Rather then being able to focus on the evolution of the Marine Corps, and implementing its strategy for the future, the Commandant has to now “figure it out”. Yes, the Corps is certainly equipped with the discipline to endure the downsizing and budgetary cuts. They have a unique and distinct ability to improvise, adapt and overcome adversity in all its forms. However, its greatest challenges should be on the battlefields across the globe, not with those entrusted to fund their mission. At a cost to the tax payer of only eight cents of each Department of Defense dollar, The Marine Corps remains the world’s most efficient, effective and disciplined global force of readiness. References HQMC DivPA. (2013, Aug 16) Marine Corps Communication; Current News Playbook