Since its inception in 1992, the Single Marine Program (SMP) has been a valuable asset that’s kept Marines connected, given them a voice in leadership, and allowed them to give back to their communities. But what specifically is so great about it? We asked two Marines, Corporal Robert Ratcliff and Sergeant Ahsan Gaskins, about their experience in the SMP:
Tell us about your involvement in the SMP:
Cpl Ratcliff: I am a SMP Officer for my unit here in Beaufort, which involves me going to monthly meetings and help spreading the words about upcoming trips and events, along with volunteer opportunities. I also take notes on any quality of life issues Marines may be having — as an SMP officer I have a voice with leaderships and can help get issues resolved quickly. I also am a Co-Vice Chairman for the SMP Advisory Committee. This is a committee of around 10 Marines that are hand-selected from each region that all come together and make executive decisions for the future of SMP along with resolve current issues.
Sgt. Gaskins: I am involved in many areas of the SMP, from working directly with my unit all the way up to being Co-Vice Chair of the SMP Advisory committee. With my unit, I do my best to notify every single Marine of the volunteer events and trips coming up. I also plan Barracks Bashes, and speak with Sergeant Majors from every unit on MCAS Yuma. I also serve as the Vice President of MCAS Yuma SMP, which has allowed me access to the base commanding officer and Sergeant Major — I help sell them on our executive council’s ideas.
Why did you get involved?
Cpl Ratcliff: I got involved with the SMP program simply because I enjoy helping Marines and the community out. Volunteering is a big part personally to me and there is such a great satisfaction with helping people out in need. Also I like what the program has to offer and it is a lot of fun meeting many different Marines and civilians.
Sgt. Gaskins: After coming off my first deployment in September of 2016, I really wanted to enjoy my time in the Marine Corps much more then I was previously. I decided to do more philanthropic work and as I continued that venture, the SMP Officer position opened up for my unit. Instantly I replied to the sent email and met with my Sergeant Major.
What’s most important to you about SMP?
Cpl Ratcliff: The fact that we give back to our local community is awesome. Whether it is going to a nursing home and spending time with the individuals, bringing them gifts and sharing stories, or going to an animal shelter. It's amazing how many Marines from all different jobs and backgrounds can come together and complete a mission for the community.
Sgt. Gaskins: We have a saying in the Marine Corps that "we are in the people business," and nothing has made that moniker as real for me as the SMP has. It’s pushed me to want to improve the program and do my part in helping minimize isolated behavior and potentially suicide. As a preventative program we will never likely see accuracy in the number of the Marines we help; however I know that my work and those I work with has done a stupendous job of giving Marines the outlet they so immensely need.
What’s your favorite event with SMP?
Cpl Ratcliff: My favorite event with the SMP program would have to be the symposium! I haven’t gone to one yet, but I am helping set up one coming up in the near future, and it sounds like it will be awesome. More than 120 people come together to discuss the future of the program. I also specifically like a particular trip we do here in Beaufort, which is going to Arlington National Cemetery. We lay wreaths on the headstones for Wreaths Across America. It is a very humbling and breathtaking experience to honor the fallen who helped shape this country and get us where we are today. We’ve also gone to the Holocaust Museum and the Museum of the Marine Corps.
Sgt. Gaskins: I enjoy a great many of things about the SMP: new experiences with proud nerds at ComicCon, volunteering with the confident children at the Special Olympics, networking and communicating with people of high influence, or even calming down a panicked Marine and directing her to our recreation center here in Yuma, AZ to play with our foster dog, Bullet.
For more information and to get involved, contact your local Single Marine Program.