Marines are looking for more ways to set themselves apart as re-enlistments and promotion opportunities become increasingly competitive due to the Marine Corps’ recent commitment to downsize by 20,000 Marines.
Participating in advancement courses, such as Corporals and Sergeants Courses, upgrading belts through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program and completing Marine Corps Institute courses are just a few of the ways Marines insistent on staying in are pushing themselves to the top.
There is an additional resource, however, that many Marines never stop to consider – the Commandant’s Reading List, also known as the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program.
The reading list was established in 1988, and while each commandant has put his own mark on the program, many books on the list have remained constant throughout the years.
The overall goal of the program, as outlined in All Marine Activities 027/11, is to “encourage Marines to discuss and debate the issues raised by the books to broaden their perspectives.”
All Marines are required to read the Commandant’s Choice book, “First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps” by retired Lt. Gen. Victor K. Krulak, and are obligated to read a minimum of one book year, which is to be noted in the individual Marine’s proficiency/conduct remarks or fitness report.
Although reading and reporting on books from the Commandant’s Reading List does not affect Marine’s cutting scores, there are benefits to expanding and reading the books for each respective rank.
“It’s very important to have this list, so each Marine has something to read and internalize that pertains to their rank and experience,” said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Longacre, staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the Advanced Course at the Staff Non-commissioned Officer Academy here. “Each book can be used as a basis of traditional upkeep and contains guidelines for every Marine who takes the time to read.”
The more than 45 books within the program run the spectrum on a range of military topics, including Corps heritage, memoirs and biographies, leadership, war history, civil-military relations, training, doctrine, intelligence and logistics.
Knowledge, understanding and implementation of the topics presented in these books can have a positive effect on how a Marine works, thinks and effectively follows orders from day to day, and ultimately make them a better Marine, making them a more effective candidate for promotion or re-enlistment.
“If you have two Marines up for promotion or re-enlistment, and they are equal in training and proficiency/conduct marks, but one is able to speak knowledgeably about a book they’ve read in the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program, and the other has never read a book off the list, who do you think is going to get the promotion?” said Longacre. “The Marine who shows they’ve gone above and beyond with go farther every time.”
From “A Message to Garcia” by Elbert Hubbard, which teaches junior Marines the importance of carrying out orders with efficiency, to “Tried by War” by James McPherson, which covers presidential military leadership during the Civil War to the Corps’ highest ranked officers, the reading program provides participating Marines with the advantage of knowing exactly what information the CMC thinks they will best benefit from at their respective rank, and what they need to know in order to move up to the next level.
Each Marine has access to books from the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program at their base libraries. Currently the Patrick J. Carney Library, located at Bldg. 1146 on Mainside, houses every book on the reading list except two.
Units are more than welcome to check out multiple books to use for professional military education sessions as well, said Sandra Jensen, assistant branch manager at the Patrick J. Carney Library.
“We keep a large section of Commandant’s Reading List books, Marine Corps Institute courses and PME materials for any Marine who is interested,” said Jensen. “If you’re looking for something and we don’t have, we can put in an order and have it for you within a short amount of time.”
For Marines who have not yet used the Marine Corps Professional Reading Program to their advantage, the time is now, especially for those vying for upcoming promotions and re-enlistments said Longacre.
“As Marines, we do much to exercise our bodies, but we must remember to exercise our minds as well,” said Longacre. “Anytime you learn, you’re moving ahead.”
Cpl. Jovane Henry