AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — Through the Corporals Leadership Course aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Marine corporals and lance corporals, and non-commissioned officers of other services go through an extensive 12-day training program where they learn vital information and gain hands-on experience to assist them with becoming better, more-informed leaders.
The course, currently run by Marine Aircraft Group 26, graduated its last class, Aug. 29.
During the graduation ceremony, Sgt. Maj. Blaine Jackson, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) sergeant major, reminded the audience of the effort it took to run the course while deployed.
"There have been 19 instructors from 15 different commands on Al Asad," said Jackson, highlighting the units and individuals that contributed to the course since January. "Without the combined efforts of everyone that I just spoke of, and the support of all the commands, this course would not have been able to happen."
Since MAG-26 assumed responsibility of the course in February, approximately 801 Marines, six sailors, and three soldiers have graduated and returned to their units armed with improved leadership skills.
"The course allows Marines to grow as leaders and ultimately our goal is for them to go back to their respective units and use the knowledge gained here to be effective leaders and mentors," said Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Harrison, MAG-26 sergeant major. "The value of it all is that the corporal is the first step in the line of leadership. It's the first time that a Marine is expected to be a leader, and Marines can use the tools and knowledge gained here to be more effective leaders."
With the ongoing responsible drawdown of service members in Iraq, there are insufficient personnel aboard Al Asad to continue the course to the new standards set by Marine Corps Training and Education Command, said Harrison.
Under the new instruction, the course will be a minimum of three weeks, and students will be graded on the mastery/non-mastery method, eliminating the standard grade point average approach. There will be six training modules that include administration, training, communications, leadership, professional skills and operations.
"With the revamp of the Corporals Course instruction, staff non-commissioned officers will be squad instructors, and out here we don't have that luxury," said Harrison. "Because we can't comply with the new guidelines, we don't think it's appropriate to keep the course going."
Throughout the course's history aboard Al Asad, Marines of all job fields and backgrounds from a wide variety of units are thrown together with one common goal in mind: becoming better leaders and better noncommissioned officers.
"These Marines have the opportunity to interact with Marines from all MOSs, and some have never been exposed to the ground side or Wing, so going into it, some Marines are apprehensive of how they might be perceived," said Harrison. "But once they get into it and start learning, they are reminded that they're all Marines, there for the same thing. They build camaraderie and they encourage each other to get through the course. Being around so many Marines from all over the place with different jobs gives them a networking tool and they may run into those same Marines 10 or 15 years down the road."
The course is important for non-commissioned officers to attend in order to gain tools to help them grow as leaders.
"I believe that [professional military education] schools are a key to our success as an institution," said Gunnery Sgt. Jesse Tegtmeier, director of the Al Asad Corporals Course.
As the graduation ceremony came to a close, the final graduating service members proudly sang the Marines' Hymn. They were then dismissed by their class commander and responded in a loud and unified voice, "Say it ain't so!"
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This work, From warriors to leaders: Corporals in the making, by Sgt Jennifer Poole, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.