The word duty may strike fear into the hearts of many Marines far and wide. From your first night at one of the Marine Corps’ recruit training depots, many Marines get their first taste of duty in the form of being woken up in the middle of their much sought after rest and being told, “Hey wake up and get dressed, you’ve got the next fire watch.” From those moments on, the importance of duty is reinforced through practice and familiarization of every Marine’s general orders.
“Ask any Marine to say their general orders and they’ll be able to list them off for you,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Joseph Mihalko, an air traffic controller assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. “Even if they hit their end of active service date ages ago, a Marine will still probably be able to recount them to you or share with you some of their own experiences while on duty.”
Duty is usually broken down into the duty non-commissioned officer (DNCO) and the assistant non-commissioned officer (ADNCO), most commonly a non-commissioned officer and a junior Marine respectfully. The job of the DNCO and ADNCO is to maintain good order discipline at their appointed places of duty, most likely at one of the many on-base barracks.
To help keep good order and discipline and to ensure the safety of the Marines and Sailors that live within the barracks, the DNCO and ADNCO check the identification of all who enter the building to ensure that is in fact their place of residence as well as checking in all visitors and checking in on them at regularly timed intervals. These Marines and Sailors also enforce things such as quiet hours, making sure all parties or loud music end by a certain time period, and Marine Corps regulations such as the grooming standard and the proper wear of civilian attire.
“You never know what exactly you’ll encounter or have to handle while you’re standing barracks duty,” said Mihalko.
In charge of the DNCO and ADNCO is the command duty officer (CDO), either a commissioned officer or a staff non-commissioned officer. The job of the CDO includes roving different parts of the installation and checking on the different Marines on duty making sure they’re awake and alert and doing their jobs correctly.
Duty lasts various lengths of time depending on the post. For barracks duty, the most common is 24 hours. This ensures that the post is stood at all times, 365 days a year.
“For me the most difficult part of duty is the lack of sleep,” said Mihalko. “It can sometimes be challenging to stay awake and make sure you’re alert enough to be able to handle whatever may happen.”
While being on duty isn’t always the most exciting way to spend a full day it serves a very important purpose across the military. Next time your home for the holidays be sure to think of the Marines and Sailors that stayed back to keep your home away from home safe and always remember, duty has no friends.