Single but not alone - Area SMPs gather for fun and leadership training
By Lance Cpl. Jess Levens
| | May 14, 2004
MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. --
Thirty-four Marines and two sailors embarked on a voyage of leadership training and team-building activities that took them from the classroom to the beach, and from racing makeshift watercraft to dining on the high seas.
Single Marine Program executives and representatives from California and Arizona bases met here April 30 for an array of classes and activities.
"It was a very interesting weekend," said Britney O'Connor, Depot SMP coordinator. "We've never done this before, and we had to find a way to make the weekend educational, but not dull or boring."
Six SMP executives - SMP members holding official council positions - from each base met at the Depot boathouse for lunch and a welcome brief from Sgt. Maj. Armando Escobedo, sergeant major, Headquarters and Service Battalion here. Following his speech, the participants went in a circle and introduced themselves.
Later that day, the Marines and sailors tackled a series of team-building games and obstacles. The last game seemed to frustrate most of the participants when a facilitator and her partner spun a jump rope and only said, "The name of the game is 'One, Two, Three.' Everyone must participate."
The players were divided into two groups; one group was allowed to talk and the other group had to remain silent and tried to figure out the jump rope pattern using tips from the verbal group. After nearly an hour, the rope dropped to the ground once the executives successfully learned the objective of the game.
"We really had trouble communicating at first," said Sgt. Dave Walter, Service Company training noncommissioned officer here. "People had to act as followers and do what they were told. We couldn't all be the leader. Once we understood that, we did a good job."
The next morning, everyone met at the boathouse for a continental breakfast before departing to Pacific Beach for a beach cleanup. Community involvement is one of the key aspects of SMP, according to O'Connor. As they combed the beach, picking up cigarette butts, cans and miscellaneous trash, people stopped to thank the Marines and sailors for cleaning up their beach.
"Community involvement is one of the five pillars of SMP," said O'Connor. "Rather than have a boring class about it, we just did it. It was better that way for everyone."
That afternoon, the SMPers prepared for the last team-building event of the weekend: building boats. Groups, which were divided by base, were given plywood, basketballs, assorted plastic bottles, rope and duct tape to build boats. After a 40-minute time limit, each base had a boat, and it was time to test them. One participant from each group raced his boat on a course in the harbor using a kayak paddle. To the astonishment of many, every boat stayed afloat and every skipper finished the course.
Sunday evening marked the culmination of the weekend for the Marines and sailors. In semi-formal attire, the SMPers boarded a small cruise ship that sailed around the San Diego harbor for fine dining, music and a little dancing.
At about 10 p.m., the ship docked. Everyone disembarked and said their goodbyes.
"This weekend was a huge success," said O'Connor. "I was so impressed with everyone's professionalism and the high participation level. We definitely made sure the Marines' positive image stayed intact."
The weekend also included a series of classes on health, career advancement, leadership and financial management. This was the first time SMP has done this workshop, but it won't be the last, according to O'Connor.