CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan -- “Do you guys feel you’re prepared for war?” asked Maj. Gen. Richard L. Simcock II, the commanding general for 3rd Marine Division. “Do you know how to fire? Are you comfortable with your weapon? Do you know how to tie a tourniquet, know what your Marines are up to, where your Marines are?”
“Do you feel ready to fight tonight?”
During a roundtable discussion at the officer’s club here, Oct. 14, Simcock spoke with Marines throughout his command, from lance corporal to colonel, about what he can do to ensure they are ready to accomplish any mission when called upon.
As the ground combat element of III Marine Expeditionary Force, readiness isn’t an option for the division. Based thousands of miles from the continental U.S., the division is a perpetually forward-deployed unit that maintains stability in the Pacific by being ready to respond to natural disasters and strategic threats in the region. The division’s mission is to conduct amphibious assault operations and combined arms land operations with strategic partners and allies.
Simcock, from San Mateo, California, has been was been at the helm of 3rd MarDiv’s efforts here since he took command on June 26, 2015. As a commanding general with 32 years of service in the Marine Corps, there are many dilemmas that keep him up at night, but the main one deals with the welfare and readiness of his Marines and Sailors.
The dichotomy between mission accomplishment and troop welfare illustrates an internal paradox within warriors of all cultures: pride in warfighting, tempered by a healthy fear of combat’s terrible repercussions.
“I want every division Marine to be hard, tough and ready, but I don’t want them to go to combat,” said Simcock. “Combat? It’s horrible, it’s bad and it sucks, but they have to be ready."
Marines asked a variety of questions pertaining to the Corps and the division.
One of the Marines asked how the Corps’ heightened focus on off-duty conduct and administrative discipline -- in comparison to the work-hard, play-hard culture and personality-driven discipline of the past – affects the Corps as a combat-ready force today.
Simcock went on to say that the Corps is changing for better in response to the evolving nature of present-day conflict. He explained that today’s warfare is less kinetic than it once was, but more focused on the manipulation of information, the public’s perception of Marines, and how a variety of sociopolitical factors have an enduring influence on global stability.
“Combat does not define a leader; a leader should be able to inspire their Marines regardless of combat experience,” said Simcock. “There are many guys and gals who have not returned, and it doesn’t make them a bad leader. It’s just combat; it’s an ugly thing.”
Marines also brought up some specific technical problems they have faced in preparation to fight.
“Gear is the main problem, and the one month delay it takes to get it,” said one of the Marines. He went on to explain that Marines sometimes have to wait a month on station before becoming deployable due to the current wait time for essential combat gear, such as flak jackets.
Simcock explained that it takes money to get the necessary gear on island and concluded the discussion with a promise to improve the division and look into the Marines’ suggestions and concerns.
“No one reads the policy letter, but I guarantee you will remember what the sergeant major and I said tonight, and we’ll remember a lot of what you all mentioned,” said Simcock. “Help me be a better general, help the sergeant major be a better sergeant major, help us make this institution better.”
Marines and Sailors walked away with knowledge to help them assess their own strengths and weaknesses in preparation for the fight.
“There are still a few things we can work on, but it’s a good start,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob M. Peery, an office mechanic repairman with 12th Marine Regiment, 3rd MarDiv. “I am confident 3rd MarDiv will continue to be the (force-in- readiness) that is prepared to ‘Fight Tonight.’”
By the end of the discussion, Simcock left not one Marine’s question unanswered.
“You had your chance,” said the commanding general. “If you didn’t ask your questions, then shame on you.”