MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The Marine expeditionary unit represents everything the Marine Corps offers.
The Marines that comprise the MEU are the first responders to crises around the world. Its success is carried out by young Marines dedicated to maintaining a force in readiness. However, this would not be possible without exceptional senior leadership at the MEU.
Throughout his service, Gunnery Sgt. Jose D. Alvizo has tailored his leadership style to one basic principle; set an example that others will want to follow. The 35-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, has lived by this characteristic and has instilled it in every Marine he comes across.
In this interview Alvizo, the logistics chief for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, shares how he developed this trait and how he applies it in his life and his career.
Q: What was your drive to enlist in the Marine Corps?
A: A recruiter once told me I didn’t have what it takes to make it through boot camp. That I would give up too easily. I wanted to prove him wrong, but more than anything I wanted to prove to myself that I could. I wanted to find out what I could accomplish.
Q: Have you found the answer to that?
A: I think I have. I am a Marine. It’s what I am. I haven’t gotten out, because this is who I am. I’m a Marine, and I don’t want to be anything else. I love everything about this institution, it continues to challenge me and I grow every day.
Q: What is your leadership style?
A: Lead from the front and set the example. Don’t ask anyone to do something that you haven’t done, or aren’t willing to do first. You have to be someone that other people are going to see and want to be like. You can only accomplish that by setting the standard and maintaining it.
Q: How did you develop this style?
A: I had a lot of brothers and sisters that relied heavily on me. They looked to me to keep them going in school, help them keep their grades up, and just to keep them out of trouble. How can I ask them to do those things, if I’m not willing to do them myself?
Q: How have you applied this style in your career?
A: I’ve always felt that everyone, down to privates and [Private first class] deserve a voice. As a [Private first class], I always said the things that needed to be said. It wasn’t for me, but for all the Marines. It got me in to trouble at times, but [staff noncommissioned officers] and officers respected where it came from. I expect my Marines to do the same, if you have something to say, let it be heard, tactfully of course, but have the courage to stand up for what you believe in.
Q: How has your leadership style changed throughout your Marine Corps career?
A: I believe in the warrior approach; be assertive with your decisions and stand by them. I think my view has changed more than anything. I understand a lot more now, and I’ve taken what I didn’t like when I first came in and have changed it to where I feel it’s beneficial for everyone. I’m still assertive, but more understanding, and it starts by learning your Marines. Knowing what makes them work, and what gets them moving. You have to be willing to adjust to who they are and encourage them.
Q: What do you expect from your Marines?
A: I expect them to push each other, challenge each other. They need to get out of their comfort zone and take on responsibilities that will challenge them, but they’ll grow from it. It’s not about trying to outshine someone, but see their full potential and that’s going to benefit everyone.
Q: What do you expect from yourself?
A: I expect myself to accept all challenges that come my way and never give up on a Marine. With hard work, teamwork and dedication, anything can be accomplished.
Q: Do you believe there are natural born leaders?
A: Yes. When a decision needs to be made or something needs to happen, there are those who step up and make it happen, and can gather those around them and inspire them to make it happen, but that also comes from them pushing themselves and having a thirst for success.
Q: Do you feel like you are a natural leader?
A: I’ve always been told I have the ability to corral people and lead them, but a lot of that comes from my upbringing. I was a pitcher and a quarterback in high school, and I never had to demand anything, the team always had my back and it showed on the field. The same has been true in the Marine Corps.
Q: Do you feel like being a leader should be easy?
A: No. You need to know adversity to truly understand and respect the responsibility that comes with being a leader. People are going to look to you, and follow you. If you don’t respect that, then you can lead anyone down the wrong path. If it’s easy, then there is no growth and that can lead to chaos.
Q: What been your biggest challenge as a leader?
A: Inspiring those that give it their all, but lack the confidence to reach their full potential. Confidence is a hard thing to teach, but it’s necessary to lead anyone.
Q: What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned in the Marine Corps?
A: Never giving up. Sometimes you think you’ve given it your all, but there’s still that little more in you. That can be the difference between success and failure in a mission. You have to be able to recognize when someone has a little more in them and bring it out; that all comes with knowing your Marines.
Q: What has kept you going all these past 16 years?
A: I truly believe in this organization. When I joined, I said I would give it everything I have. Since then, I have, but now I give it my all and make others around me give it their all. Make them realize what they’re doing isn’t a waste and that we are honestly making a difference in the world.