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SMP lures 'barracks rats' with more than cheese

By Lance Cpl. Kevin Paul | | September 19, 2002

The Single Marine Program coordinator's job at Marine Corps Community Services is like the pied piper from the children's book.

Their job gives them the unenviable task of luring some Marines out of their barracks room where they might watch DVDs, play videogames and twiddle their thumbs during their free time, said Gabby Black, SMP coordinator.

"I think [SMP] is a good idea," said Cpl. Steven R. Osteen, an intelligence chief at Marine Attack Squadron-211. "At 3rd Force Service Support Group in Okinawa, we didn't have an SMP. This gives single Marines around here something to do. I'm sure you've heard of the 'barracks rats'. It lets them know they don't have to stay in their rooms all the time."

The mission of the SMP is to assist the Corps and commands in improving total force readiness, job performance, and retention by continuing to improve the quality of life for all single Marines.

According to Black, some of the ways the program goes about meeting its mission is by planning recreational, community service and other morale boosting activities.

Black meets with the SMP representatives from every squadron once a month. During the meeting, activities and quality of life issues are discussed like, "why the chicken in the chow hall tastes like liver," or "when are we going to get the new air conditioned cammies?"

When the meeting is finished, it isĀ  the responsibility of the SMP representatives to pass the word from the meeting to fellow Marines in their squadrons.

According to Black, it is up to each Marine to act on the information passed to them; some do, some don't.

"I've only been in the program for about a month and a half," said Lance Cpl. Shane McElroy, the SMP representative for Air Traffic Control, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. "I was married and going through a bad divorce. I got really depressed and was always in my room."

However things changed when McElroy was recently "voluntold" to be the SMP representative for ATC. He found out first hand what the program offered during the SMP meeting in July.

Deciding anything was better than being a "barracks rat," McElroy signed up for the trip SMP offered in July to Delmar Beach near Camp Pendleton, Calif.

McElroy said the trip had the four essentials: beverages, "babes", "bumpin" music and the beach.

"I had a blast," said McElroy. "And, I didn't pay one penny for the trip."

McElroy said he's excited about the SMP baseball trip Sept 28 to watch an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game.

"They've got some real good deals," said McElroy. "If you think about it, the trip to Phoenix would easily cost more than $100 if you add up the cost to go there by yourself with the cost of parking, hotel, food and game, but you're only paying $20."

So why aren't more Marines taking advantage of the services SMP offers?

"Not many people know about it," said McElroy.

"We've had trouble before, where trips had to be canceled," said Black. "It was due to lack of participation. Most of the people found out about the trips through word of mouth, but I'm proud to say all of our trips lately have been full."

Black said an effort has been made to publicize the program more through the Yuma News e-mail bulletin, station electronic marquees, and the reps. Another idea being considered to advertise the program more would be for a bulletin board to be hung up in each squadron for all single Marines to see.

And like any good offer, it's all for a limited time. Each trip has a set quota of Marines that can participate.

"It comes down to a first come, first serve basis," said Black. "We usually give them two pay days (to pay for an upcoming trip)."

For further information about the Single Marine Program call 269-6079.
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