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15th Marine Expeditionary Unit

America's Vanguard Force

Camp Pendleton, CA
Leadership 101: Marine from Smithfield, Pennsylvania

By Cpl. Elize McKelvey | 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit | December 8, 2014

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The Marine expeditionary unit represents everything the Marines 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.

Major Joseph Grimm knows about hard work and long hours. Growing up on the farm the 39 year old from Smithfield, PA, knows to keep pushing to get the job done no matter what. His experiences carved him into the Marine he is today.

In this interview Grimm, a SJA with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, gives insight on what helped him become the successful leader he is today.

Q: When and why did you join the Marines?
A: I joined the Marines because my father and brother were in the army, they were in the 82nd Airborne and I thought that was pretty unique experience. However, I thought the Marine Corps was a little bit more hard core. I wanted to travel and to follow in my father’s footsteps.

Q: What College did you go to?
A: Penn State!

Q: Was the decision hard to go do a lawyer contract versus a ground contract?
A: You know, it was a spur of the moment thing. I had a ground contract; I was getting ready to graduate Penn State with a degree in animal husbandry. I was walking through the chow hall one day and I saw a poster that said they needed Marine Corps Lawyers and I thought that would be cool so I applied to law school and got accepted. The Marine Corps switched my ground contract and I got a law contract.

Q: Was there a shock factor for you when going through OCS or was it a pretty easy transition?
A: Well, I grew up on a farm and the transition was tough but working on the farm teaches you hard work, team work, long hours so it was a good fit for me.

Q: If you had to pick three things to represent leadership traits from working on the farm the Marine Corps what would those be?
A: Never giving up, you know on the farm you were taught to “keep on pushing on to get the job done no matter what” so I would say mission first … you keep on going until you complete the mission. That is Marine Corps 101 right there. The second would be teamwork. Working on the farm you had to set aside you differences to get the job done just like in the Marines. The third you know would probably be adapting and over coming. On the farm you didn’t have a lot money or resources but you had to get the job done anyway. You learned to improvise pretty good!

Q: What have you taken from the leaders you’ve encountered today, both positive and negative?
A: I’ve been fortunate to have some of the best leaders in world I think, the good things they did for me was they gave me broad guidance and they created an atmosphere that allowed me to perform but if I failed they still supported me. Don’t get me wrong, they didn’t just throw me out there and let me sink or swim but they told me what they wanted done and expected me to do it. Another thing they did was teach me how to read, I mean it’s amazing how influential a book can be. One of my first bosses was LT COL Colby Voke, he is a legend in the Marine Corps Judge Adv. Community. One of my first days he gave me a book called “And The Sea Will Tell.” He gave me that book and 10 years later I was in charge of a group of attorneys and I gave every one of them that book.

Q: Your job is pretty serious, is it hard to separate work from home?
A: It is. Depending on your billet it is hard to separate work from going home, so yea you take your work home with you. You’re consistently thinking about those Marines and how you can help them.

Q: Can you enlighten us a little bit on your leadership style?
A: There is a time and a place to be serious; I think you can be firm without being mean. Unless the situation calls for it, I mean here at the MEU we are working with great people everyone is trying their best.

Q: So you would say your leadership style is more relaxed?
A: Don’t get me wrong if a Marine gets a butt chewing I’ll give it to him but I will be professional and try to do it in a mentoring way.

Q: One last question, if you had a piece of advice to give to someone who wants to grow as a leader what would you say to them?
A: I would say to read. Read a lot. Interact with as many people as you can and try to be a positive influence on everybody’s lives. And third, don’t be afraid to step outside of you comfort zone. I know it’s hard to do sometimes but when you do it paints a completely different picture for things and you won’t regret it.


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