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NCOs Enhance Leadership Skills At Sea

13 Aug 2009 | Lance Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

A Corporals Course,  conducted aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Aug. 3-9, sharpened leadership skills for more than 60 Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

Service members enrolled in the course received training in Marine Corps history, military justice, physical fitness, sexual harassment, leadership styles and traits.

According to an article in the March 20, 2009 edition of the Okinawa Marine, Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, recognized that the noncommissioned officer (NCO) is a valued part of the Marine Corps and is considered a major contributor in the Corps’ success.

"The role of the Marine NCO has not changed in the Corps since 1775," Kent said. "NCOs have always been, and will remain, the 'backbone' of our Corps. The role of the NCO is one of the most important leadership roles to mission accomplishment."

The Corporals Course is just another method used by the Corps to construct the role of the NCO.

“This isn’t just another check in the box for Marines,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Green, the chief instructor for the Corporals Course. “It’s paramount for us to instill the Corps’ values and traditions during the course so they can pass along the knowledge to their Marines.”

No matter if it’s a lance corporal waiting to pick up or a seasoned NCO, the course is designed to provide knowledge and skills necessary to lead Marines by highlighting leadership fundamentals and the comprehension of general military subjects.

This course provides students the flexibility to reach their goals in becoming better leaders despite the MEU’s operational tempo (OPTEMPO) and demanding work schedule aboard ship.

“A lot of jobs change for Marines on ship. The ones that are constantly working ashore might have a lighter schedule on ship,” said Green. “Now when the OPTEMPO is higher, the course can adjust in order to allow members the opportunity to participate without having to worry about falling behind in their normal work responsibilities.”

Also compared to corporal courses ashore that can last for two or three weeks; various factors and schedules aboard the ship dictated a five-day program. However, the course did not loose its intensity and tested the students’ personal strengths.

“The instructors didn’t want to loose any of the integral components of the course. The course was shorter in length, but we worked 15 plus hour days in order to encompass all subjects,” said Cpl. Matthew Boelke, intelligence analyst from the 31st MEU and graduate of the Corporals Course.

Even with the long and strenuous days, Boelke said he was satisfied with the results of the course.

"As an NCO, it's my responsibility to teach my Marines good morals, ethos, and values," said the Minneapolis, Minn. native. "The Corporals Course taught me how to be a stronger leader, and the knowledge I learned will allow me to train my Marines to the best of my abilities."

 Green too was pleased with the course and said, “I believe the course was a great success.  The students and the instructors learned a lot from one another and it helped both become better leaders.”


31st Marine Expeditionary Unit