USS ESSEX, At SEA --
John F. Kennedy once said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,” and those words are still embodied in today’s military.
One Sailor assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) learned that lesson first-hand when he joined 32 Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit for an 18-day non-commissioned officer (NCO) leadership class known as the “Corporal's Course” Sept. 10-28.
“We want the participants to learn the fundamentals of being an NCO,” said Gunnery Sgt. Antoine T. Robinson, staff NCO in charge of the Corporal's Course. “Knowing how to think critically, make decisions and employ different styles of leadership are skills that NCOs of every service should have. The Corporal's Course teaches these things.”
Yeoman 3rd Class Hans C. Handschin normally works in Essex’s personnel office, but for the last few weeks, he has spent his days as the lone Sailor in a room full of hardcore Marines.
“The PT (physical training) is definitely challenging,” said Handschin. “Most mornings we are in the hangar bay by 5 a.m. grappling, running and sweating.”
In addition to PT, Handschin participated in all classroom and hands-on evolutions.
“Petty Officer Handschin has exceeded my expectations,” said Cpl. Julian S. Adams, a Corporal Course participant. “I respect him for coming into a room full of Marines and doing as well as he did.”
All Marine ranks senior to corporal have required professional military education courses. Though not required, attending a Corporal's Course is an important step for Marines trying to make sergeant. It is a great opportunity for corporals and senior lance corporals to build on what they have already learned, said Adams.
“Corporal's Course is something I have wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “This is an important time for non-commissioned officers and I think we are going to be better because of it.”
The ability to lead is arguably the most significant attribute of a good service member. Attaining the rank of corporal in the Marine Corps, or petty officer 3rd class in the Navy, brings more responsibility and requires the ability to manage subordinates.
“This course has a lot more to offer than leadership training,” said Handschin. “This is the first time I have spent a lot of time with the Marines and I’m learning a lot about how the Corps works. The whole group is really gung-ho.”
The Corporal's Course is taught by one lead instructor and several other instructors ranging from the rank of corporal to master sergeant. The classes focus largely on teaching war-fighting, decision-making and critical-thinking skills. Participants are graded on their performance on two tests, four practical applications and two group activities.
“This course is designed to teach Marines a certain set of NCO skills that can really make a difference, regardless of which service they are in,” said Sgt. Christopher M. Trombley, a Corporal's Course instructor. “E-4 is a perfect rank for training on the foundations of leadership.”
On Sept. 28, 32 Marines and 1 Sailor will graduate the Corporal's Course and return to the ranks as NCOs with an edge. Robinson hopes that more NCOs of both the Navy and the Marine Corps will take advantage of the upcoming Corporal's Course scheduled to take place Nov. 13-30.
Essex, commanded by Capt. Troy Hart, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the Western Pacific region.