Cleanliness is next to readiness

21 Aug 2006 | Pfc. Christopher D. Lyttle

Troop welfare entails health and comfort for service members defending our country. After a hard day’s work, Marines and sailors need living quarters to facilitate their everyday needs. This includes those assigned with II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF.

It’s a home away from home, but like everything else in the Marine Corps, it comes at a price.

For three months, Cpl. Matthew C. Rivera, company police sergeant, II MHG, has served as barracks manager. The barracks houses approximately 250 Marines and sailors from II MHG.

“I am responsible for making sure the Marines and sailors are living the way they should be and staying as happy as possible while here,” said Rivera.

Similar to a dormitory or city apartment complex, the barracks has hot water, phone lines, laundry rooms and 24-hour security. Keeping a barracks in good shape is important to the overall health, comfort and safety of the Marines and sailors who reside there.

The factor distinguishing a Marine Corps barracks from any other living area is that residents are expected to maintain a higher standard of cleanliness and serviceability in their areas.

“Each room is furnished with beds, or racks, chairs, lamps, refrigerators, microwaves and dehumidifiers,” said Rivera. “It’s an older barracks, but it’s very livable and well-kept. In order to maintain that, we hold weekly formations,” he added, referring to the infamous weekly event known as ‘field day.’

Once a week, Marines and sailors form up for accountability. Then they split into groups to remove the trash from the grounds. Finally, they break off into field day for a general cleaning of rooms and common areas. The tasks include gear storage, vacuuming, mopping and cleaning bathrooms.

Rivera’s job as barracks manager is to ensure everyone is performing these tasks satisfactorily.

“Friday morning, the MHG company gunnery sergeant, the deck (noncommissioned officers) and I perform a field day inspection through all the rooms and check for items to replace,” he said. “I’ve noticed the cleaning seems to get better each week.”

Cpl. Quincy D. Pratt, 27, fiscal budget technician for II MHG, has served as the 2nd floor NCO for four months and attributes a deeper value to what some may feel are just routine chores.

"It goes beyond cleanliness,” said Pratt. “Knowing where all your gear is organized will get you into good habits when you go to Iraq. The things we check for during inspections involve security. Is your door secure? Is all your gear locked up?”

Pratt added that military-issued gear is expensive if it gets lost, and weekly field day is a check and balance against misplacement or theft. 

“It’s almost a subliminal value instilled, having the Marines formed up together, because that's exactly who they're going to be deployed with,” he said. “Field day is also about familiarization and following simple orders in a noncombatant environment.”

Pratt added that helping fellow Marines and sailors with their living situations during barracks maintenance and inspections is a learning experience for him as well.

"I've learned from this job by helping Marines work through their problems instead of around them, like an issue with a roommate," he said. “If you take care of your Marines, they'll take care of you.”

The weekly maintenance tasks these Marines and sailors are responsible for benefit their immediate well-being. However, the commitment to good habits will benefit their well-being for a lifetime.