WASHINGTON -- As part of the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ new outreach initiative, 11 senior civilian business leaders visited the National Capital Region today to discuss concepts and programs critical to today’s military.
The men are part of the Vistage Group, an organization of business owners and chief executives from the Chicago area who made up the first-ever Marine Corps Business Executive Forum. This enduring program is designed to provide a brief glimpse of the operations of the Corps from an insider’s point of view.
The group’s one-day visit to the Washington area started with a tour of the Pentagon, where the men were able to see some of the inner-workings of the entire United States’ military.
The tour was followed by a current operations brief by Lt. Col. Lawrence Oliver, Current Operations Group Head, Policy, Plans and Operations, Headquarters, Marine Corps. Also on-hand for the initial brief was HQMC Judge Advocate Division Director Brig. Gen. James Walker, and HQMC Public Affairs Director Brig. Gen. Robert Milstead.
The Marines used this time to briefly discuss operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the organizational structure of the Marine Corps, the disposition of the various Marine Corps units and the military’s peacekeeping effort in the Middle East.
Next stop for the executives was Weapons and Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base Quantico where the group first received an overview of the Corps’ Precision Weapons Section. SSgt. Kenneth Bain, PWS repairman, provided a detailed brief on the different types of weapons systems used by Marines in battle such as the M16A2 service rifle, the M-9 Beretta pistol and the M-40 sniper rifle.
Bain also took time to showcase some of the more specialized weapons including the bolt-action M24 sniper rifle, the Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) variant of the M-9 pistol, and the competition version of the M16A2 service rifle used in national matches.
Not to leave the forum members with an unfulfilled thirst for firepower, the group was given the opportunity to throw some lead down range.
After detailed safety and handling instruction, and a two-hour delay because of a forest fire on the range, the group was finally able to get behind a “hot” weapon. They fired a number of rounds from the M-9, M-16 A2, M-4, AK-47, M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and the M-240G Machine gun.
“I’ve been around guns for a number of years,” said George Cochran, former soldier and chief executive officer of the Cochran, Corinia and Waller law firm from Chicago, Ill. “Being able to fire weapons that I’ve never been able to fire before gave me a great respect for weaponry.”
The tour ended with a trip to the National Museum of the Marine Corps, where the executives viewed various exhibits such as the original Medals of Honor worn by Marine icon Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly and the original flag that was raised when the Marines stormed the island of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Joe Romanowski, CEO and owner of Machinery Systems, Inc., Schaumber, Ill., felt the tour of the museum was probably the most sobering and influential part of the trip. He recalled stories of a friend and former Marine who described his days at the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War.
“He told me many stories about how cold it was and how [the Marines] were stuffing newspapers down their [trouser] legs and around their bodies,” he described. “They were just trying to do anything they could to keep warm.”
Romanowski was impressed at how the Chosin Reservoir exhibit captured the Marines’ experience in such detail.
As a former Chief Executive Officer of a Chicago based news company, Richard Gilbert’s view of the Marine Corps has always been highly favorable, but he said there was something special about interacting with the Marines that made a lasting impression on him.
“These young men and women are patriots, and we’re just lucky to have [people] like that,” said Gilbert.
As the group’s chairman, he noticed everyone was very amazed with the devildogs’ visible work ethics.
“I think what impressed me was when I saw the businessmen come in contact with these Marines and say ‘wow!’” Gilbert exclaimed, talking about how each member of his group was impressed with the professionalism and conduct of all the Marines involved in putting the day’s events together. “I don’t know what they’re going to do when they end their career in the Marine Corps, but we’d sure as heck like to get them involved in our companies!”
Cochran reiterated Gilbert’s comments about the camaraderie he observed within the Marines.
“I saw a sense of teamwork and a sense of belonging to something special that struck me in so many ways throughout the course of the meetings today.”
Milstead stated that the event will become an enduring program where other civilian business executives are invited to D.C., for a “Marine Corps Day.”
“We need to engage the civilian community,” added Milstead. “We’re a military at war, not a nation at war … and I think there’s great value to this.”
He stated the forum was a successful event. He believed that the group left with an admiration for what Marines do day in and day out that the businessmen otherwise would not have known.
“They are leaving with an appreciation for the Marine Corps and for our young men and women in uniform, and for what we do as a Corps. And that is something they didn’t have when they started today.”