Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort --
Marine Aircraft Group 31 hosted guest speaker Phil Downer aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Nov. 5.
The Vietnam veteran spoke at two events, one addressing the subject of leadership to the Marines of MAG-31 and another regarding couple relationships at the Air Station chapel later that evening.
Command members of MAG-31 received direction from higher command elements to increase leadership training efforts for Marines at every level.
“It was suggested they were free to engage the subject of leadership and ethics in a way of their choosing,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kim Donahue, MAG-31 senior chaplain, from Rocky Hill, N.J. “In the past we have had peer groups lead by noncommissioned officers to discuss different topics after a safety stand down. They wanted to combine that.”
The solution was inviting a guest speaker with military experience who could relate with the Marines on the positive and negative consequences of leadership.
“I just love Marines,” he said. “They kept me alive, I care about them. When you get to be older you train others not to make your mistakes.”
Downer spoke of his time as a Marine machine gunner with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, in Vietnam from 1966-1968 and the examples of leadership that saved his life and the lives of others. Each memory he recounted tied back to the principle of servant leadership and how it builds relationships of trust between leaders and subordinates.
“Servant leadership trumps fear, stupidity, and hopelessness and replaces it with courage,” he said. “It helps you to rise to the occasion and serve the people you’re with because if you trust them and they trust you. It’s esprit de corps and it pays off.”
Downer also explained the principles apply in garrison and in home as well as combat, how families and peace-time Marines can still fall prey to mistakes leading to loss of life.
“We’re either going to succeed together or we’re going to fail together,” Downer said to the Marines. “You’re in a war right now, a different kind of war, and your enemy is more concealed. Your enemy is pride, complacency and alcohol abuse, among other things.”
Downer was just as enthusiastic at the chapel later that evening, speaking more towards personal relationships as spouses or parents.
“I believe our ability to have that kind of trusting relationship is a personally measurable outcome of spiritual fitness,” Donahue said. “I think he got his point across to the Marines. He spoke in a way that was accessible to everyone, and it had quite an impact. Servant leadership leads to mission accomplishment.
“To be a servant, to place another person before yourself, will bring a whole different experience in that relationship,” she continued. “I would want every Marine who was there to know that their life is absolutely critical and valuable, and hope that they would feel the same way about everyone else around them.