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 crisis around the world. Its successes are carried out by young Marines dedicated to maintaining a force in readiness. However, this would not be possible without exceptional senior leadership at the 15th MEU.
There is no one word to describe Gunnery Sgt. Aquiles Rendon’s style of leadership. The 35 year-old from Houston uses a variety of techniques that include humor, patience, and understanding to ensure his Marines reach their full potential and give 100 percent effort with every task.
In this interview Rendon, the administrative chief for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, shares how his leadership style continues to inspire Marines and has led to success in his 16 years of service.
Q: What inspired you to enlist in the Marine Corps?
A: It was not really having a sense of direction after I graduated high school. I had a real good friend that was a Marine and he guided me to the Marines, and here I am today.
Q: After 16 years of service, why have you chosen to stick with it?
A: I enjoy what I do in the Marine Corps. To this day, I enjoy helping Marines administratively, and I enjoy being around Marines in general.
Q: How has your leadership changed over time?
A: I think any good leader takes bits and pieces from their mentors and puts their signature on it. I’ve taken the best and applied it to helping Marines grow.
Q: Do you feel like you were always a leader, or was it something the Corps helped you develop?
A: I believe there are born leaders and those that are made. I fall somewhere in between. I’m here because of the mentors I had early on. I had to learn to follow before I could lead. Once you find your itch, or your calling then you thrive in it, and you develop as a leader. When I was growing up, I hung around friends that were really into break dancing. I wouldn’t say I led them, but they looked to me and kind of followed me. It was a great group of guys, and I think my first sense of leadership came from that.
Q: How have you applied that to your style of leadership?
A: The way I approach things is based off of how I loved to joke around growing up. That part of me hasn’t gone away, and Marines have responded to that. By keeping the environment at work light and fun, Marines don’t dread coming in. They know I’m approachable and they feel like they can come to me for anything. Marines are always going to do what you ask of them, but if they want to follow you; you have to be approachable. Their quality of work is better when they want to follow you.
Q: What’s one word that describes your leadership?
A: I don’t think there is one word to describe my leadership style. I don’t look in the mirror and say this one word is going to define how I lead. I’m different in many ways, so there isn’t one word to characterize gunny Rendon.
Q: Is it hard to maintain the line between professionalism and keeping a fun environment?
A: It is and it isn’t. I make myself approachable, but I explain to the Marines my role and make sure they understand why I’m here. You also have to explain to them their role. Once they get it, they know the limits and what needs to get done.
Q: What’s been your biggest leadership challenge?
A: I think every day we’re tested and challenged. The values that have been instilled in me these past 16 years help me overcome those challenges.
Q: What do you expect from your Marines?
A: I expect the best from them. I want them to give 100 percent. If they’re not, then it’s on you as the leader to figure out what’s wrong with them, and how you can help them out.
Q: What do you demand from yourself as their leader?
A: To be the best mentor I can, and to dedicate to make better Marines. In the Marine Corps, we’re taught to leave things better than how you got them. I want every Marine that works for me to be better after having served with me.
Q: How do you help Marines that are going through a rough patch in their career?
A: I think sometime Marines lose hope and blame the Marine Corps for their short comings. I tell that Marine to look in the mirror and evaluate the decisions they’ve made. The Marine Corps didn’t make them chose those decisions; they chose those decisions. You are in charge, and you can either pick yourself up, or give up and blame others for your mistakes.
Q: Who was the biggest influence in your life?
A: Growing up my dad ran a strict house hold. My dad didn’t accept us acting up, but I believe I am who I am today because of how my mom raised me. At 35, my mom still says I’m her little boy.
Q: What separates your shop from the rest of the shops in the MEU?
A: We’re the S-1. When I came in there was a strong [noncommissioned officer] core. They’ve made the S-1 into their family. We’ve brought in our augments and accepted them to our family.
Q: How are you preparing your Marines for deployment?
A: Teach them what I know. We have a pretty young crew, so just giving them my experiences from my deployments.
Q: What goals have you set yourself for the deployment?
A: Having a successful deployment. Bringing everybody back safely, and not just my Marines, but everybody back.