CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- They’re new, and they’re on the move.
Sailors with 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group breathed life into their Junior Enlisted Association in September, and they don’t plan on stopping to catch their breath.
The association acts as a forum for junior enlisted sailors to voice their opinions, build camaraderie and directly impact the community around them. It also helps deepen the service members’ connections to their unit.
“When I first came here, it was kind of hard to adjust to the way things were,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Calvin B. Hanks, the president and founding member of the association. “I decided to make a change – not only to become a better person, but a better sailor.”
The association’s members elected Hanks as their president shortly after the group was established, and they set right to work launching their first major event – a three-mile suicide awareness walk through the streets of Camp Lejeune.
“The reception was extravagant,” said Hanks. Several of the battalion’s senior leadership joined the 45 other participants for the walk to draw attention to the association’s cause in spite of the event’s short notice.
The battalion’s response to JEA has stayed strong as a whole, noted Hanks, who credits the support of his senior enlisted mentors and unit command for helping to create and guide the group.
“They inspired me to use the potential I always had,” he said. “Your idea can be put out directly so the entire command is impacted. That is what it has been afforded to me, along with the opportunity to have more camaraderie with my fellow junior enlisted.”
After less than two months as an official association on base, JEA has already added 16 service members to its ranks. The number of participants is continually growing, said Hanks, and the group’s meetings frequently attract more of the unit’s sailors, who want to see if JEA is right for them.
Hanks said he feels JEA serves as a light for other enlisted service members, whether they are getting out of the military or staying in. It can show them they can have an impact, and there is a path for them to be successful.
“We want to be on a broader scale,” said Hanks, who was part of a JEA at his previous command and would like to see the organization grow to include even more units. “I feel like it shouldn’t be limited. There is more power in numbers. If we all come together collectively, we could have a huge impact not only on our commands at Camp Lejeune, but the community surrounding us.”
The group has already begun reaching beyond the base’s gates. They are working to get in contact with local retirement communities, where they can send sailors – decked out in their finest Navy attire – to bring food and entertainment to the residents.