MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The commandant of the Marine Corps established a policy on equal opportunity, which is known as the absence of discrimination in the workplace, based on race, color, gender, age, national origin, religion, or mental or physical disability.
“In order for the command to be as successful and combat ready as possible, equal opportunity must be a naturally occurring precondition to any effort or task undertaken here at the Combat Center,” reads the Combat Center’s equal opportunity statement.
Furthermore, in order to maintain equal opportunity in the Marine Corps, leaders and supervisors encourage an environment free of discrimination.
The Marine Corps recently searched for staff noncommissioned officers to be equal opportunity advisors. Staff noncommissioned officers representing Marine Corps commands from the west coast region of the United States met at the Combat Center Dec. 4 to 9 to participate in a course training them to become equal opportunity advisors.
The staff NCOs graduated Dec. 9 and are now assigned as special staff members to commanders at major Marine Corps installations to coordinate and execute the command’s equal opportunity program. In addition, equal opportunity advisors provide instruction, assistance and advice on all equal opportunity matters. Their mission, given by Gen. Michael W. Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, is to educate Marines and Sailors so they gain an understanding in a variety of backgrounds, beliefs and values.
“Understanding our individual differences that were brought together at boot camp and Officer Candidate School, and molded into a common heritage as United States Marines, creates awareness that every Marine is an integral part of a unit,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Russell D. Whitney, senior equal opportunity advisor, Headquarters Marine Corps. “All Marines are valued equally as members of a team — making us better and stronger as we continue to win our country’s battles at home and abroad.”
The Marines and Sailors who attended the course gained knowledge of an array of different equal opportunity areas of discussion from values, attitude and behavior to prevention of sexual harassment. They were presented with certificates during the graduation ceremony by Col. Anthony F. Weddington, Combat Center inspector. He spoke to the Marines and Sailors on the subject of equal opportunity in his career and specifically as company commander for a company in Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C.
“I remember briefing all the Marines on forming day one on what was expected of them in order to graduate from recruit training,” said Weddington. “I told them ‘you can’t get through recruit training without working together as a team.’ I believed in equal opportunity long before the program was established in the Marine Corps — the Corps wouldn’t work without it.”
Each Marine and Sailor had a chance to say a few words in front of their class upon receiving their certificate.
“This whole week filled me with valuable information,” said Staff Sgt. Charles A. Hudson, technician chief with 9th Communication Battalion, from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. “It brought some positive awareness to me about simple information. I learned the differences in religion and individual’s upcoming, and if people don’t learn to recognize these differences, they will be less willing to work together, thus affecting the mission.”
Training alongside people with different upbringings is what the Marine Corps is comprised of, said Master Sgt. Howard E. Payne, operations chief with Marine Combat Training, MCB Camp Pendleton.
“The course stemmed toward the Marine Corps order for equal opportunity for Marines and Sailors, and we broke it down,” said Payne. “All of us are more aware of different words that most of us use, how they can be used, and the impact they can have on people. Now, as leaders who have just been educated on the issues, we must bring our knowledge back to our command. If there is racial or sexual tension between coworkers, then the command has animosity within it. This could translate to the battlefield. The course could be easier described as ‘Basic Leadership 101.’”