News: Key influencers see where it all begins for Marine officers
Story by Lance Cpl. David Flynn
QUANTICO, Va. - The Marine Corps Recruiting Command recently wrapped up its Key Influencers Workshop, which ran here July 18-22.
The Key Influencers Workshop provided a week-long look into how the Marine Corps assesses and trains its officers and steps the Corps is taking to increase diversity representation in its officer ranks. Attending the workshop were influential leaders from historically black colleges and universities and African-American communities.
“We are trying to educate community leaders of the opportunities and possibilities that are open to the best and brightest of any background,” said Capt. Joseph Wydeven, diversity officer, MCRC. “We want these leaders to understand what we already know – that women, African Americans, Hispanics, and those of other minority background can find great success in our Corps when they compete and excel.”
The first day of the workshop started off with a bang as the influencers saw a demonstration of different explosives at Murphy Range at The Basic School here. The explosive demonstration was part of a class given to lieutenants that the influencers sat in on.
“They’re highly motivated,” said Dr. Patrick Bingham, vice president, Virginia State University, of the company of lieutenants who roared “fire in the hole” before each blast. “They’re doing a great job.”
Following the demonstration, the influencers had lunch at the TBS chow hall. Joining them were lieutenants of various ethnicities and backgrounds who shared their Marine Corps experiences.
After a day at TBS, the influencers traveled north to Arlington National Cemetery to see the Sunset Parade. The Sunset Parade runs every Tuesday night during the summer months and features performances by the Commandants Own Drum and Bugle Corps and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon.
“Being here, it is clear it is a privilege to be a part of this,” said Kevin Jones, vice president and director of operations and player personnel for the Philadelphia Panthers football team. “You have to earn the title Marine.”
The following day the influencers learned about various education programs the Marine Corps offers during a series of briefs at Marine Corps University before heading to Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) for a flight on a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter. Making their rare opportunity to fly with the President of the United States’ helicopter fleet even more special was their pilot, Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, commanding general, Training and Education Command. Coincidentally, Fox was the guest of honor at the Sunset Parade the influencers had attended the day before.
The influencers finished their workshop with a trip to Officer Candidate School here. While at OCS, influencers were greeted by Col. Richard C. Jackson, commanding officer, OCS, received a tour of candidates squad bays, witnessed some of the candidate evaluation process and saw a demonstration of the obstacle course by a few of the candidates’ physical training instructors.
The quality of character and discipline instilled in officer candidates struck a chord with Jones, who feels that some youth could learn a thing or two from the Marine Corps.
“In certain communities that we have, I hear about young kids being hit by stray bullets and other sad stories. If the Marines came in and taught these youth this same kind of discipline, it would change the nation for the better,” said Jones.
For many influencers, the best part of their day and even the entire workshop was speaking with a panel of five African-American officer candidates currently attending OCS.
“This is definitely the highlight of my week here,” said Shaon Berry, chief executive officer, Junior Rank, speaking to the candidate panel. “There are hundreds and thousands of young men and women that need individuals like you as role models. I would encourage you all to keep doing what you’re doing because you are all great, and I sincerely mean that.”
During the candidate panel, influencers asked many questions, such as what is the physical training like for women, what sets the candidates apart from their peers at their universities and why they chose the Marine Corps over other services.
For one candidate, who achieved the rank of sergeant, his prior experience as an enlisted Marine erased many stereotypes he had heard and others still believe about race in the military.
“When I enlisted in the Marine Corps I heard a lot of stereotypes,” said Candidate Andrew J. Middlebrooks. “I haven’t encountered any discrimination because we are all on the same team. I think the Marine Corps is one of the best things for a young black man or woman because of the educational opportunities and the experiences they will have.”
The week-long workshop was an eye-opening experience for many influencers who only knew about the Marine Corps through what they had seen and heard in the media.
“Before this week, I didn’t know anything about the Marine Corps except what I had heard on television,” said Dr. Vicki Lott, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, Huston-Tillotson University. “Here I’ve seen the real people, and it’s amazing how much pride they have in being Marines.”