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 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.
Master Sgt. Scott Svetkovich has lead Marines for more than 16 years using his signature style of leadership. Svetkovich continues to leave his mark on the Corps as the intelligence chief with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. In this interview he shares how he makes an impact on the MEU and what it takes to be a good leader.
Q: What does the intelligence section bring to the fight?
A: The intelligence effort provides the operations section with targets to prosecute and information and intelligence on the enemy, which the commander can [use to] devise courses of action to prosecute those targets.
Q: As an intelligence chief, what do you bring to the fight?
A: My job is to assist the intelligence officer on the guidance and direction of the intelligence effort and to train, with regards to ground training and [military occupational specialty] proficiency, the Marines in the section.
Q: Why is your job crucial to the overall mission of the MEU?
A: Doctrinally, the intelligence function drives any type of operation. Operators don’t know where the bad guys are unless we tell them. There would be no mission without the information we provide.
Q: What kind of a leader are you and where did you learn it?
A: I’m firm, but fair. I think leadership philosophies are built from both good and bad leaders we have throughout our service. My particular leadership philosophy is three fold; make better Marines, make better [intelligence] analysts, because that’s what we need here, and make better people, because not everybody is going to be the [Marine] that retires. So the guys that are four years and get out, the least we can do is prepare them by giving them some sort of ethos from which they can base the rest of their life on.
Q: What do you expect from your Marines?
A: I expect 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time. Whether good, bad or indifferent, as long as they are doing what they can to the best of their abilities.
Q: Your Marines have a demanding job with a lot at stake. Do you teach them how to handle the pressure that comes with the job?
A: I don’t think you can be taught how to handle that pressure. I think with any job, you either have that or you don’t. Most guys that do have that are good at briefing and do the research. The guys that don’t you can kind of teach it to them, but they will only succeed, in my opinion, so far. What I provide them is an example of how to deal with that type of stuff. Even if they’re not great at it from the get go, at least they have someone they can try to emulate and not get nervous in front of the boss.
Q: Who was your most influential leader in your career?
A: I’ve met a few, and from each of those individuals I have pulled something from them. The first [intelligence] chief I ever worked for was kind of a hard-nose guy and raised me as a ground guy. He gave me that edge that people talk about. As I got up the ranks, as a [gunnery sergeant] I ran into a master sergeant who was super smart. At least in the job, when you get that high you think there’s nothing more you can learn, you’ve experienced everything there is. He taught me different ways to look at problem sets, different ways you can come at an analytic problem. Both of them remain good friends to me today.
Q: What’s a lesson you hope Marines throughout the MEU can learn from you?
A: It’s supposed to be hard. It’s this business for a reason. So if it’s hard one day, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, but at the end of the day it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun, find another job.
Q: What makes a good leader?
A: A cup of coffee and a big belly (as he said with a laugh). Nah, I think a good leader is someone who doesn’t just talk the party lines, but also walks them. Anyone can get up in front of a formation of guys and say honor, courage and commitment. Oorah! It’s those guys that actually live by it, the lifestyle. It’s easy to wake up and just show up to work on time. It’s easy to be a Marine, like the bare minimum guy. It’s simple. Show up to work on time, do what you’re told when you’re told to do it, [physical training] and go home when they tell you. Where it becomes hard is to be a good Marine. That is not just telling your Marines, this is the way we’re supposed to do it, but showing them this is the way you’re supposed to do it.
Q: What do you look for in a good leader?
A: Those people that live the ethos and not just take the easy way just because it’s convenient for everybody; but this is the way we’re going to do business because this is the way we’re supposed to do business. It’s not always easy, but it’s not supposed to be.
Q: What do you demand of yourself?
A: I demand for myself nothing more than I would ask any Marine to do for me. So the same thing I ask them, 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time, and I’ve given that my entire career and I’ll continue to do it until someone gives me a flag and tells me to go.
Q: With 16 years of service, is there anything left you’d like to accomplish as a leader?
A: I came to the MEU because this is the only challenge in my job that I haven’t done. This is the big show. With the wars over, realistically, if you want to be on a pro team this is it. There is no other place in the Marine Corps where you’re going to get this opportunity. In the [intelligence] community as a master sergeant you don’t get to be this close to [junior] Marines this much.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish on the MEU’s next deployment?
A: Not getting fired (he said with a serious look and then broke into laughter). No, a successful MEU [deployment]. You go out with all your guys and you come back with all your guys would make it successful.