Serving as a leader in the Single Marine Program (SMP) parallels exactly what it means to be a leader in the Corps: taking care of Marines. This does not mean only taking action when a Marine asks for help, or has made a mistake – it is stepping up from the very beginning to prevent destructive behaviors that could end their Marine Corps careers, or ruin their young lives. SMP was found to improve the quality of life for single Marines in the barracks. The majority of the Corps falls into this population. With the holidays fast approaching (and for many Americans) this is a time to regale and celebrate. For Marines, it generally equates to being separated from their homes, friends, and families. They may be deployed, lack the financial means or lack accrued annual leave to travel home, leading to Thanksgiving and Christmas being spent in their barracks rooms. It leaves many Marines feeling lonely and isolated. As SMP leaders, we have a direct line of sight as to how this diminishes readiness.

How can serving in the SMP mitigate negative feelings and actions among the troops? Leading by example. That simply means getting your Marines out of the barracks, and helping them discover what interests them. Encourage NCOs and junior Marines to participate in recreational activities, games, volunteer opportunities, sports, and trips the SMP offers are just some options that will help them grow as both Marines and human beings. Getting outdoors, meeting new people, or giving back to your community rejuvenates the soul. When your troops see your personal involvement and success inside and outside the Corps, they will want to mimic it. If you have routed up a quality of life issue that has not been properly rectified by your chain of command, your next step is to make your SMP aware. The easy thing to do and the right thing to do are seldom the same; being a leader is having the moral courage and intestinal fortitude to speak up when something is wrong. This also means caring for the whole Marine: from the conditions they live in, to the environments they work in, to the company they keep, and what they pursue, “outside the gate.” You are serving as a brick in the foundation of his or her character. SMP is the pathway to ensure your Marines are being cultivated in the right atmosphere. Becoming a Marine is a choice; leading Marines is a destiny.