MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Staff Sgt. Brian Long shouts out the orders for drill movements to four Marines carrying guidons on the lawn of 5th Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment’s headquarters building. A large group of corporals are gathered in formation close by, eagerly awaiting their turn to exercise their knowledge of drill during the regiment’s recent corporal’s course.
Each new rank in the Marine Corps brings with it a new level of responsibility. The transitions from junior Marine to noncommissioned officer and staff NCO are key milestones in every Marine’s career, and both can be a huge shock to a Marine’s perspective as a leader, according to Long.
The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, announced in All Marine Message 026/10, that completing a command-sponsored corporals’ course or non-resident corporals’ course would become a requirement in the future to earn the rank of sergeant, once available and implemented.
Long is the chief instructor for the regiment’s three-week corporals’ course, which graduated a class April 4th, where he helps teach corporals the knowledge they need to be leaders.
“One of the goals of this course is to help shift the corporals’ focus from mission accomplishment in just their shop to being leaders of Marines everywhere,” said Long, a Columbia, S.C., native who also serves as the 5th Battalion operations chief. “We are working to get these new NCOs to understand that they need to be that perfect example of a Marine and showing them how to promote themselves, their subordinates and the Marine Corps.”
Many of the things the corporals learn during the course are broad strokes of knowledge that can be applied to any role the corporal might have to face. Their classes cover everything from how to set the example and the leadership skills needed for garrison life to the knowledge and skills they’ll need to take charge while on a deployment and lead Marines into combat.
“Corporals course is not just about bringing together a couple NCOs and trying to teach them some basic knowledge; it’s also about inspiring them, drawing them deeper into the Marine Corps, and helping to give them a sense of ownership for the responsibilities they now have,” said Sgt. Maj. Curtis Warren, the battalion sergeant major and a Virginia Beach, Va., native. “When I attended the course a long time ago, it really affected my leadership capabilities. It sparked a renewed energy into me and gave me the motivation and skills I needed to take charge wherever I went.”
Warren explained professional training events, like the corporals’ course, are just as important to a leader as the real experience they’ll gain when leading Marines, both in garrison and on deployment.
“I used to brush off the importance of attending training courses, but that was before I attended this one,” said Cpl. Wade Crawford, a battalion training NCO for 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment. “This course has helped me understand that I am a corporal of Marines, not a corporal of (1st Bn., 10th) Marines. It’s given me a lot of good knowledge that I’ll be able to take back to my battalion and teach my peers. It’s helped to teach me several different styles of leadership.”
The St. Augustine, Fla., native took advantage of the regiment’s training event, thinking it would just be a check-in-the-box deal, but his opinion quickly changed with every new day. He said it’s been a much better experience than he ever thought it could be, and now he feels like he’s ready for any contingency.
“All of these corporals have the potential to go very far in the Marine Corps,” said Long. “This course is helping to breed a stronger Marine by giving these guys the confidence and skills to go back to their shops and take charge. Many of these Marines are the ones who will re-enlist and continue to serve and carry on the customs, traditions and standards of excellence of the Marine Corps.”
The battalion’s senior leadership describes the course as an investment into the future leaders of the Corps. It’s a professional course that trains professional NCOs.
“There is a direct link between a professional NCO and a unit’s performance,” said Lt. Col. Walker Field, the battalion commanding officer. “It is imperative that the frontline trainers of the troops – the corporals – exhibit the standards of a professional, and the corporals’ course is a vital step in the process.”