MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- In support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, many Marines fresh out of the School of Infantry are using skills recently learned in training and returning veterans of war at an early stage in their Marine Corps career.
Twenty-year-old Cpl. Matt Ingham from Altoona, Pa., is one of these Marines. With no experience in the fleet, every order that came his way when he got to Iraq was executed without question. The experience he gained in Iraq along with the leadership skills he already possessed helped him become the leader of Marines he is today.
Although there are many Marines who may be physically larger than him, his personality roles over top of the tallest and biggest Marine.
Along with his military training, hunting in the woods back home with his friends and family was just the experience he needed to help him in his deployment to Iraq. With no experience and no idea of what was really happening to him, basic instincts were all he had to go on.
“Getting out of SOI, we were clueless to what was going on,” said Ingham, a 2002 Altoona Area High School graduate. “We didn’t think for ourselves and just followed all the orders that we were given.”
When he told his family about leaving on deployment to Iraq so soon after getting out of school, they began to worry about what would happen to him and if he had enough training to survive in a combat environment, Ingham said.
Shortly after he returned from his deployment, he was put into a staff non-commissioned officer’s billet as a young lance corporal. This was the beginning of a new stage of development for him. During the coming days, weeks and months he was using skills he had used before he enlisted. While in high school, he rode dirt bikes in motocross competitions. As a competitive hunter and rider, he has had the mentality of competing for positions of leadership among other people.
Ingham, who is not a big man, comes across to most as a powerhouse when they see his brawny personality. According to Ingham, being a competitive person in the motocross field requires much dedication, discipline and physical strength. Those characteristics followed him in the Corps and have helped him succeed as a Marine.
“During high school, I rode motocross and hunted most of the time after school and on the weekends,” Ingham said, talking about his favorite hobbies.
Being an avid hunter, picking up a rifle in the Corps was just the job he wanted. Ingham didn’t just hunt a couple times a year; he would hunt all the time. He would hunt for anything as long as it was in season. This has worked hand-in-hand with Ingham’s pleasure in working with rifles and mortars.
Overcoming his small stature with his larger than life persona, he has taken himself far in life and in the Marine Corps. He joined the Marines as an infantryman knowing he had many adventures ahead of him. When asked about what he liked most about the Marine Corps, he answered with much enthusiasm, “I like to shoot things and blow things up!”
Being approachable, but concise with everything he does, Ingham has come through the ranks in a fashion not known to many Marines. The leadership skills began to develop as time went on. He became a squad leader shortly after finishing SOI, just before he deployed. Being a squad leader as a “boot” Marine, Ingham learned many skills in leading Marines.
“It is easier to lead and direct the Marines who I am in charge of because I am more on their level as a corporal,” Ingham explained.
Having a motivated and driven attitude, challenging other Marines around him for promotion, and using his leadership skills, he has been able to show others what he is made of and why he deserved the leadership position he is in.
Advancing in his job field was another area he concentrated on. Ingham went to an advanced course for mortarmen to learn new things on leadership in his job and advanced material concerning the basics of his job.
“Going to the advanced course has helped me gain knowledge that I can pass on to those Marines under me to help them become better at their jobs,” Ingham said.
Being a junior Marine and taking the steps to become an NCO, certain things changed professionally for Ingham. He had to change personal friendships into professional ones. Treating his once same ranking Marines differently was something he had to grow accustomed to. The transition was a little easier for him as he was already in a leadership billet.
“I feel that being a corporal in the position I am in helps me relate to and be more approachable for my Marines,” Ingham explained.
The chain of command leaves Ingham just underneath a gunnery sergeant, who is the platoon sergeant. The job field currently has few higher-ranking leaders, and has caused corporals like Ingham to step up to the plate. He has taken control in a manner that many of his leaders expected him to.
“He is a mature and professional Marine who stands out among his peers,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ian Schlenker, platoon sergeant and St. Petersburg, Fla., native. “This is the guy who takes control and should be recognized for what he is doing with the troops.”
Ingham wants his unit to be the best mortar platoon there is. He runs a strict program, which has made his Marines excellent at their jobs and proficient at getting them done quickly and accurately.
When Ingham is teaching his Marines about their jobs, he informs them of the knowledge he has learned and more importantly the experiences he has gone through in his career.
He has been deployed twice to Djibouti, Africa and once to Iraq. He uses the knowledge he gained during these deployments to teach his Marines the important things to work on as far as performing their jobs in the best manner possible.
During the time when Marines deploy, stress and worry usually become part of the families everyday lives. He has a great family back home that supports his every choice and decision he makes as a Marine.
“I have a great family back home who supports me significantly in what I do here (Camp Lejeune, N.C.),” said Ingham when speaking about how much he appreciated the support he received during his deployments overseas.
Regardless of location, he provides learning opportunities for all the Marines under him. He teaches them from the experiences he has gone through overseas so that when the time comes, they are ready and know what they may face. For the younger Marines, learning from someone who has been there and learning vital lessons is just as important as knowing what the books say about the skills of their jobs.
He has many Marines who look to him as a good leader, Marine and friend. Some of the Marines who are working for him have been with him since joining the Corps.
“He is a great leader who knows exactly what he is doing,” said Lance Cpl. Drake Hunter, a mortarman with India Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, and a native of Shreveport, La. “I have been with him since the beginning and I trust him entirely.”
Ingham now leads Marines and leaves an impression on those above and below him. Doing a job well and helping others become better at what they do is a small part of how Marines become good leaders.
Ingham has many qualities of a good leader and his leaders see much potential for becoming even better than where he stands now.