Today, Sgt. Jennifer Wilbur has less than 60 days left in the Marine Corps, but she is not yet done making her mark. As the chief instructor for the College of Enlisted Military Education Courses at 2nd Maintenance Battalion, she is pushing for a radical change in how Marines learn to problem-solve.
“When we all joined [the Marine Corps], we desired to be our best… Sgt. Wilburn is the type of Marine that says ‘good isn’t good enough’. She takes the Marines around her and says ‘we have to do it better’. She wants to know how she can get the best out of every single Marine,” said Sgt. Maj. Charles Peoples, sergeant major of 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.
Wilbur was the winner of the second quarter’s Commanding General’s Innovation Challenge award for her introduction of Design Thinking into command-sponsored professional military education courses at CEME such as Lance Corporal Seminar and Corporals Course.
The 26-year-old sergeant introduced these new ways of thinking into the courses after being involved in numerous Scrum Master and Design Thinking training events that were provided in her command. “Design Thinking” and “SCRUM” allow participants to identify issues and contrast them with an ideal scenario, with the desire to find the middle ground in between.
“‘Design Thinking’ helps Marines find the problems in their work environment to increase productivity. Marines have great ideas, but they don’t think they are being heard. This gives them a voice.” Sgt. Jennifer Wilbur, chief instructor for the College of Enlisted Military Education Courses
The Florida native has served for eight years, and in her eyes, she grew up in a very different Marine Corps. Her experiences have paved the way for her to invest in change.
“I came into the Marine Corps when we were coming off the heels of the war in Afghanistan. My corporal treated me very differently because I was a female,” recalled Wilbur. “I didn’t understand it, and after I talked to the other females in my section, they said the same thing was happening to them.”
Wilbur explained she was frustrated with the situation and was motivated to find a solution. She decided to approach the problem head-on.
“I confronted him, and he didn’t even realize that’s what he’d been doing, and he apologized. Come to find out, his wife was unfaithful to him while he was in Afghanistan, and he had been subconsciously taking it out on all of us. It’s because no one talked or cared to ask him, so the problem went on,” said Wilbur.
In an era where so many leaders find it challenging to communicate to Marines due to social and technological differences, Wilbur said the solution is simple: to genuinely care for others.
“Rank comes with responsibility. Many leaders ask questions because they feel like they have to, and not because they actually want to make improvements or interject themselves into a Marine’s life. Marines see through it,” Wilbur observed.
Wilbur plans to attend college in the near future, with the goal of earning a doctorate in psychotherapy and returning to the military, to once again help Marines and Sailors. She also takes with her a $1,000 prize and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal earned along with her recognition.
Although Wilbur is set to leave the Marine Corps soon, she still thinks it is essential to continuously build each other up and challenge the status quo.
“Leaders should care about their Marines, Marines should care for their fellow Marines, [and] people should care for each other,” said Wilbur. “If one person cares, they can start a chain reaction in their small unit that will work its way up. Person by person… that’s how we affect change.”