CAMP PENDLETON, Calif --
U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Benjamin T. Watson, the commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, officially established a force preservation team as part of the division’s primary staff to foster resilience and to better support the 22,000 Marines and Sailors in the Blue Diamond.
Following a new division order, the force preservation section officially took charge of the effort earlier this year and will lead the way in supporting service members through some of the unique challenges of Marine Corps life.
“What we’re really doing is realigning existing functions to ensure the Marines and Sailors are getting the best possible support, as fast and as effectively as possible,” explained Lt. Col. Pat Holland, the division’s first assistant chief of staff for force preservation. “We already see successes in our working groups and in our feedback across the division.”
Marines and Sailors face challenges in every operation, exercise, and day-to-day task. Time away from family, physical and mental fatigue in the field, and constantly evolving operating environments take significant tolls on the bodies, brains, and hearts of service members. The old phrase, “no one promised you a rose garden” is truer today than ever before. The challenges of the Marine Corps are difficult, but also provide even more meaning to the mission of the nation’s premier crisis response force.
Photo by Cpl. Cameron Hermanet
U.S. Marines with Headquarters Battery, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, stand at attention after being recognized for winning the 1st MARDIV communication competition during the division’s morning colors ceremony at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, June 2, 2023. The division holds the ceremony every quarter to recognize Marines and Sailors for outstanding performance.
The evolving challenges Marines and Sailors face require evolving solutions, sometimes creative ones, and 1st MARDIV hopes to achieve success through the new force preservation team. The team, consisting of uniformed and civilian professionals, will support personnel across the division through a wide variety of resources and experience. The new team serves as a portal for unique support such as mental and behavioral health, personal counseling, safety, and other forms of resilience expertise.
The force preservation team will, “strengthen, educate, protect, and track and resource,” according to the new division order, and the section will “share best practices from across the division to facilitate success.”
While the latest available numbers show a drop in Marine Corps suicides from 2020 to 2021, a sustained reduction in the service’s suicide rate is a challenge facing every leader of Marines. Like every other challenge, Marines will work tirelessly to find better solutions and tactics to support the warfighter. 1st MARDIV’s development of the force preservation team is one way the division intends to combat the persistent mental health epidemic. Other notable challenges addressed through the new staff section include vehicle safety, substance abuse prevention, and sexual assault prevention.
“We must continue to work to break down barriers to help seeking, address stigma, and build healthy climates and a culture of connection where all our service members can thrive,” Elizabeth Foster, the executive director for the Department of Defense’s force resiliency office
“Certainly, one instance of these events is unacceptable, but we owe it to our Marines and Sailors to give them every bit of help we can to reduce this,” said Watson, to the division staff during a briefing to solidify the new section’s roles and responsibilities.
In addition to the force preservation team, division leadership regularly encourages subordinate unit leaders to create new programs and initiatives to support the Marines and Sailors across the division. These programs include invigorated counseling systems, family-focused events, and personal education opportunities to expand the resources available to the individual Marines and Sailors, along with their families.
“We must continue to work to break down barriers to help seeking, address stigma, and build healthy climates and a culture of connection where all our service members can thrive,” said Elizabeth Foster, the executive director for the Department of Defense’s force resiliency office, after releasing the department’s 2022 annual report on suicide.
The new staff functionality only increases the readiness and combat power of 1st MARDIV. Increasingly resilient and more cohesive units train more effectively and support division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and combatant command missions with less restrictions. As one of the Marine Corps’ immediate combat forces, 1st MARDIV continues to explore tactics and techniques to better support the individual warfighter and better provide effective forces across the globe.