One Marine’s Perspective: Reflection on Readiness

By Kyle Genaro Phillips

March 2020 will forever be etched in our memories. Over the course of the last fourteen days, our global community came to a grinding halt. There are a number of different personal responses, to include, denial, panic, and hopelessness against the backdrop of something that we collectively do not have a firm grasp or understand. I have taken a moment to reflect on what this experience means to me during a period that Winston Churchill aptly phrased as the “end of the beginning.”

Readiness is something that is dogmatic in the Marine Corps ethos. As a battalion commander at the School of Infantry for two years, we constantly preached “readiness” to our newly minted Marines. The refrain went something like this: “the time to prepare for combat is not when you are on the precipice of conflict. Train every day like it’s your last to prepare for war.” Readiness was the mantra. Be ready. Study, be physically fit, prepare your family for the possibility of deploying for combat. Since September 2001, our military has rightfully seen the benefits and consequences of our state of readiness.

The current global pandemic has provided an opportunity for all of us to take inventory of our personal state of readiness. What is our readiness – physically, financially, and spiritually for the unknown challenges that we will face in the future? The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated in a clear fashion that our physical readiness may have a very real impact on our individual ability to be resilient in the face of unknown health crises. Do we exercise? Do we smoke? Are we eating healthy meals? Do we get adequate sleep in order to maintain the best and healthiest version of ourselves? Physical readiness is not something that we can flip a switch, take a pill, or order from Amazon. Physical readiness takes discipline, teamwork, and dedication to the process to ensure our individual well-being. While it’s never too late to start, we have a finite ability to improve our physical conditioning. Don’t delay.

The current crisis has also demonstrated the necessity of financial readiness. Everyone in some way has been impacted financially by the outbreak of the coronavirus. Financial planners have often preached that we should have 6 month’s salary saved for emergencies. Additionally, are we disciplined to keep our debt to income ratio low so that we have credit when we need credit. Our individual financial resiliency contributes to the overall financial resiliency of our community and country. While we may not be able to immediately change our financial position in the light of the current volatile environment, at some point we will be back to a stable economy where we must balance our current needs and wants with the necessity to build economic resiliency through savings and low debt.
Finally, our spiritual readiness is critically important. What is the status of our relationships, both personally and professionally? Do we have a firm spiritual base to weather the rough seas that undoubtably will present themselves in our life? Do we have a loving relationship with our family and those closest to us? This we can change. Be kind. Show empathy. The individual positivity displayed in the face of extreme circumstances has the same exponential effect as the viral crisis we face today. Our spiritual readiness must be constantly nurtured. In hard times, spiritual resiliency is perhaps the hardest to muster in the absence of a lifelong commitment to fostering a foundation upon which to build.

Readiness is critical to our individual and collective achievements. Let us all reflect on where we are now, physically, financially, and spiritually. We all can improve. Let us be accountable for ourselves with the support of our friends and community. The current crisis will pass. Resist the urge to just “get back to normal.” Together we can work for a better normal. Through our disciplined approach to our personal readiness we will persevere. Start now.

(Kyle G. Phillips is an active duty Marine with nearly 22 years of service. The views presented are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of DoD, DON, or the Marine Corps.)