When it comes to the movers and shakers in the Marine Corps, they virtually all will visit the same event this week: the Marine Corps Sergeants Major Symposium in National Harbor, Md.
An annual gathering of the service’s most senior enlisted advisers, the symposium frequently leads to recommendations that affect change in the service. Led by Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent, it traditionally pushes up a handful of suggestion to the commandant each year. Many of those have made their way into Marine Corps policy in recent years, including a crackdown on body-fat standards, the approval of campaign stars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the limiting of forearm tattoos in the service.
I was invited to attend the symposium for a few hours yesterday, my third year covering the event. We’ll have much more in next week’s print edition of Marine Corps Times, but it’s worth sharing the list of speakers set to appear this week. They include:
- Commandant Gen. James Conway and his wife, Annette
- Assistant Commandant Gen. James Amos, the presumed next CMC
- Retired Gen. Peter Pace, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs
- Navy Secretary Ray Mabus
- Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, deputy commandant for Manpower & Reserve Affairs
- Lt. Gen. Frank Panter, deputy commandant for Installations & Logistics
- Lt. Gen. George Flynn, deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration
- Lt. Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, deputy commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations
Those are some pretty big names, from Conway right on down to four of his six deputy commandants. A variety of lower-ranking general officers and colonels also are scheduled to brief the sergeants major.
Pieces of the symposium are pretty laid back, and the Marines wear civilian clothing on some days. The week is packed with events, though, and has little downtime for anyone involved.