Chemical Biological Incident Response Force
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Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, commanding general, II Marine Expeditionary Force, presented Chemical Biological Incident Response Force with the Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller Outstanding Leadership Award, here, May 11. The award recognizes II MEF units or commands who achieve excellence in combat readiness.

Photo by Sgt. Leslie Palmer

CBIRF Marines and sailors earn Chesty Puller Award

11 May 2009 | Sgt. Leslie Palmer

Conflict, challenge, adversity; all things Marines tend to thrive that contribute to the effective leadership the Marine Corps is known to instill in its Marines.

Chemical Biological Incident Response Force, II Marine Expeditionary Force received the Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller Outstanding Leadership Award, here, May 11. Receiving the award is a II MEF honor recognizing units and commands for their outstanding leadership.

“The Chesty Puller award is given to units that achieve a certain level of excellence,” explained Lt. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, commanding general, II MEF. “The intent [of the award] is force preservation, which contributes to combat readiness. Combat readiness includes things like family readiness, physical and mental fitness and equipment readiness.” Hejlik explained.

Hejlik flew here from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. to present the award personally, which according to Sgt. Maj. Christopher Harper, battalion sergeant major, CBIRF, had a powerful impact on CBIRF Marines and sailors.

“It was awesome that the commanding general took time out of his busy schedule to present the award to CBIRF Marines and sailors, who do the things important to him as a commanding general, according to his guidance to all II MEF units,” Harper explained.  

Attributing leadership to effective sergeants, Hejlik explained a sergeant’s role in a Marine unit.

“Sergeants run the unit,” Hejlik explained. “They’re down there [working] with the rest of the Marines and sailors each and every day. A sergeant is responsible for making sure his or her Marines are competent in their MOS (military occupational specialty), that their Marines grow personally and professionally and they are responsible with things like their vehicles.”

While a sergeant has a great deal of responsibility contributing to combat readiness, Hejlik said a unit such as CBIRF operates as a team.

“This is a very diverse unit. The training is different and so is the mission. A lot of the Marines and sailors here are combat veterans. So, when a unit like this is cohesive enough to win an award like the Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller Outstanding Leadership Award, it brings everyone tighter together, and it’s going to be a better unit overall,” Hejlik said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if CBIRF won the award next year.”

Being so far away from their parent command presents some unique challenges for CBIRF, but as Marines typically thrive on adversity, solutions are met.

In the past, it was difficult sending corporals to Corporal’s Course, because the unit had to send the Marines to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. to attend the course. However, in an effort to assist more corporals in completing the course, several CBIRF sergeants learned how to teach the course and formed CBIRF’s Corporal’s Course.

“We push Marines to go to PME (professional military education) schools,” said Sgt. Benjamin Cooper, communication specialist, Headquarters and Service Company, CBIRF. “We can’t send 30 corporals to MCB Quantico, because it’s logistically difficult. It’s easier for us to put 30 corporals through a course here at CBIRF.”

Challenging Marines to develop their skills beyond a basic rifleman is important for Marines. Educational courses the military offers give Marines the opportunity to improve those techniques.

“It’s about developing the entire Marine,” explained Master Gunnery Sgt. Peter Bordeleau, operations chief, Headquarters and Service Company, CBIRF. “Sooner or later, they are going to be in combat.”

Overcoming challenges due to CBIRF’s geographical location in comparison to the rest of the Marine Corps has been a significant obstacle, said Harper. Developing Marines who have the skills to accomplish anything asked of them is one driving force of the unit.  

“How can we expect certain things from our Marines, if we don’t give them the tools to accomplish what we need them to accomplish?” Harper explained.   

Overcoming challenges, facing adversity and negotiating conflict are skills the Marine Corps is known for instilling. Rewarding Marines with awards like the Lieutenant General “Chesty” Puller Outstanding Leadership Award is just one way of recognizing those abilities.