An Introspective Look at Joining Marine Barracks Washington, D.C.

28 Aug 2014 | Maj. Paul W. Steketee The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

When I received orders to Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., I was overwhelmed and intimidated at first.

“How is this possible?” “Why me?” “Am I ready for this?” Were the questions that plagued my mind.

 Considered hallowed grounds amongst most Marines, I was shocked that the Corps would consider me worthy of this distinct honor. Like most Marines I began my reconnaissance trying to find out about my new assignment and the Marines with whom I would serve. This proved more difficult than I imagined as myth and mystique seemed to shroud the Corps’ Oldest Post. I heard tales of standing at attention with feet together, dress blues with spandex inserts, and more bizarre stories of commandants using their back porch to take archery target practice onto the parade deck.

When the day finally arrived to report to the command, I had no better idea of what to expect than when I first received my orders. I recall my first impression was that everyone and everything was perfect: perfect salutes, perfect grounds, perfect customs and courtesies. My second and immediate thought was, “I’ve never been a drill instructor or anything similar. Can I do what these Marines do?”

The days that followed were a blur, suits on Tuesday and Friday nights because uniforms weren’t ready; Mr. Yi, the Barracks tailor, telling me I was a freak of nature and no uniform would ever fit; meeting lots of new Marines; checking-in but not being able to follow the strange list of places I needed to check in and countless Marines, both senior and junior, telling me what I was doing wrong and how to fix it.

Finally, as the fog started to lift and I was no longer the new guy, I began to look around and make observations about my surroundings. Above all others, two observations stood out. First, this is a Marine unit just like any other. The only difference being that the old adage is no longer true, we don’t put our trousers on like everyone else, we slip them on over our shoes in order to maintain the “ceremonial crease”. Second, this unit, unlike many others, possesses the highest caliber of cohesion, esprit de corps, discipline and efficiency. All hallmarks a truly professional organization. Those who have never served anywhere else may not understand these observations, but I firmly hold to these and believe that the second is a complete luxury and blessing.

 Now that the dust has finally settled and I am able to process my experience, I am compelled to write about how this experience has changed me. At this point in my career I know how to be a Marine. Every day that I spend here interacting with guests at parades, observing colors with a real bugler, wearing the uniform with absolute attention to detail, handing out uniform buttons to guests, and most importantly, telling our story, I am slowly starting to learn what it means to be a Marine.

The words of our 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune, could not be more poignant:

“This high name of distinction and soldierly repute, we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it, we have also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as "Soldiers of the Sea" since the founding of our Corps.”

I am blessed to find that I am in the company of the finest Marines I have ever met and trusted with the greatest honor of bearing the name Marine. A title which I revere above all other titles.