MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- Seventy-one Marines and civilians involved with the Single Marine Program gathered at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, Va., Sept. 19-25 to share success stories and discuss the young program's future.
The SMP Worldwide Forum 2004 brought senior enlisted advisors, coordinators and representatives of the program from across the Corps' installations and detachments together to network their ideas.
"The people that attend this forum are the leaders and change agents of the Single Marine Program for their installations," said Evonne Carawan, SMP program manager at Headquarters Marine Corps, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. "The goal (of the forum) was to empower the leadership and the valuable role the Single Marine Program leaders play on an installation, and hopefully to inspire them to go back to their bases and do something with what they've learned here."
The overall goal of the program is to improve quality-of-life issues for single Marines and thus improve retention and combat readiness.
During the week-long forum, attendees discussed quality-of-life and community-involvement issues such as deployment support, clubs and recreation centers, voting initiatives, volunteer opportunities, community service and the state of barracks and chow halls, among others.
They received informative presentations from HQMC representatives on electronic distance learning, program funding and performance measures, and the benefits of commissaries and exchanges.
They also heard speakers address new Marine Corps initiatives and opportunities, including savings programs, postal initiatives, transition assistance and the new Drug Demand Reduction video game entitled "First to Fight."
Cpl. Wesley Curry, a Marine Forces Atlantic SMP council representative and infantryman with 1st Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team, learned a lot during the conference and thinks the program applies to grunts as much or more than other Marines, he said.
A Marine's peace of mind while training or deployed relates to the quality of life at home, said Curry.
"It definitely applies to us," he said. "When you get back from the field, you want your quality of life as good as it can be because during those days in the field, you think about coming back. You think about what you're going to do when you get back what you're coming home to. So I think quality of life is a big concern."
The Single Marine Program was established in 1995 and held its first forum, with only six attendees, in 1998. Since then, the still-young program has grown considerably, said Carawan.
Marine Corps Order 1700.36, which describes the program and its role in the Corps, became official Corps policy this past year. The order established SMP as a commander's program and ensured its future, said Carawan.
"The Marine Corps Order is the highest level of policy the Marine Corps issues, so it establishes the program in policy," said Carawan. "It gives us a backbone, so to speak. When you've got a Marine Corps Order, it sort of etches your place in history."
Lance Cpl. Jessica Kempf, an aviation mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-31 and SMP executive council member at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C., sees a bright future for the program, she said.
"I think a lot more is going to be accomplished," Kempf said. "When you first start out, it's going to be rough kind of knocking around a little bit. At first, you're just taking baby steps, but soon I think we'll be running."