Integrity, courage, initiative and dependability are just a few of the 14 traits attributed to leaders in the United States Marine Corps. However, one trait is missing that describes all leaders and all Marines: confidence. It should be added as the Corps' 15th official leadership trait.
Confidence can be defined as: "trustworthiness, full belief in the powers, or reliability, of a person or thing. It is a state of being certain ... that a chosen course of action is the best or most effective." Confidence separates Marines from every other branch of service, and it's what sets us apart from the civilian world. It may not be physically noticeable like our classic "high and tight" haircuts or our "motto" tattoos. It is, however, how we carry ourselves, how we conduct ourselves and how we interact with others. Our confidence is what allows anyone to spot a Marine from a mile away.
I am a sergeant of Marines assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268. In 2011, I graduated recruit training as the company honor graduate, was honor graduate of Corporals Course and completed a vigorous three-week course to become a Marine Corps martial arts instructor. Growing up I had a serious confidence issue and would often mumble when spoken to. My mother would always tell me to speak up and be sure of myself. She knew a person's volume has a direct link to his or her overall confidence. It was no surprise then, reaching the sandy shores of Parris Island, that the phrase "Scream it!" lingered throughout.
As a recruit, I developed great admiration for the Marines I encountered during those 12 weeks of high-intensity training. Whether they were teaching Marine Corps history or how to take down an enemy with a single 5.56mm round, each shared the same trait: effortless confidence. They knew exactly what they were doing and what they were talking about, and it showed. I told myself, "I want what they have, I want their confidence." It was then I knew I made the right decision for my life. I knew the Marine Corps was going to give me the right tools I needed to obtain the very thing I struggled with growing into adulthood.
Confidence has led a multitude of Marines to great heights for their heroic actions in battle. Marines such as Cpl. Kyle Carpenter and Sgt. Maj. Bradley Kasal have relied on their confidence as a foundation to get the job done.
One of my favorite Marine stories is well-known throughout the Corps. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hathcock, who possessed undeniable confidence and skill with the sniper rifle, began his Marine Corps journey at the age of 17. He quickly found himself fighting in the Vietnam War as one of the Corps' most precise snipers. Although he took no pleasure in taking lives, he could not abide the thought of brethren falling at the hands of the enemy.
Charles Henderson, author of "Marine Sniper," wrote about Hathcock and his legendary triumphs. One of those stories was about a Viet Cong sniper who delighted in torturing and slowly killing young Marines wounded in battle. Known as "Apache Woman," she finally met her end when she came between the crosshairs of Hathcock's unmatched discipline and razor-sharp precision — one of his 93 confirmed enemy kills. Hathcock's confidence and skill saved countless lives of those Marines to his left and right.
Ask yourself one question: Could we as Marines accomplish any task or complete any mission without confidence? Would we have been able to storm in and seize Mexico City during the Battle of Chapultepec or quickly gain ground, ultimately taking control of the port city of Derne, Libya? Would we have been able to invade and capture the island of Iwo Jima from the Japanese empire?
For 240 years, Marines have been embracing and utilizing confidence in every aspect of their lives and careers. Unfortunately, more and more Marines are forgetting that confidence played a crucial role in making us the No. 1 fighting force in the world. They are forgetting, in the words of the Marine Corps NCO Creed, the "heritage [we all] have received from that long, illustrious line of professionals who have worn the bloodstripe so proudly before [us]."
The United States Marine Corps would not enjoy the reputation it has today without Marines, past and present, upholding the traditions and values we hold so dear. Our reputation would not be what it is without "pledging to incorporate all the leadership traits into one's character."
The great thing about the Corps is that we are not afraid of change. We have always embraced change when it's necessary because we know that even the most senior devil dog can learn tricks — we know how to adapt and overcome. This is why I am certain that adding confidence as the 15th USMC leadership trait will remind us of who we are and where we come from, and continue to ensure we remain the strongest military force around the globe for years to come.
Sgt. Demetri Brown
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