Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Dajarius Hobson, an administrative specialist with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, conducts sword manual during a Marine Corps Corporals Course while deployed in support of Operation Allies Welcome, on Fort Pickett, Virginia, Dec. 29, 2021. The Department of Defense, through the U.S. Northern Command, and in support of the Department of Homeland Security, is providing transportation, temporary housing, medical screening, and general support for at least 50,000 Afghan evacuees at suitable facilities, in permanent or temporary structures, as quickly as possible. This initiative provides Afghan personnel essential support at secure locations outside Afghanistan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Stanfield)

Photo by Cpl. James Stanfield

23rd Marines Conducts Corporals Course During Operation Allies Welcome

11 Jan 2022 | Cpl. James Stanfield Marine Corps Forces Reserves

Marines from 23rd Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, and soldiers from the 919th Military Police Company, New Mexico National Guard, deployed in support of Operation Allies Welcome (OAW), are taking part in a Corporals Course at Fort Pickett, Va.

Corporals Course is a residential professional military education course (PME) administered by senior noncommissioned officers and staff noncommissioned officers. The course is a requirement for corporals to be eligible for promotion to the rank of sergeant, but the purpose is to provide students with the basic knowledge and skills necessary to become successful small-unit leaders. This is done through instruction in close order drill, combat conditioning, leadership, public speaking, mentoring, and communications.

A battalion-wide Corporals Course, hosted by a reserve battalion, with the potential to create 98 PME-complete corporals is an uncommon occurrence in the Marine Corps Reserve.

“As reservists, we only have what we call 38 training days a year, so within that timeframe, we have to be prepping for PFTs (Physical Fitness Tests), CFTs (Combat Fitness Tests), and every time we go to the field,” says SSgt. Michael Gilbert, an infantry unit leader with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, and the chief instructor of the course.

“These Marines being able to complete this course here, now that we're at OAW, [means] whenever we retrograde back to our home training sites, we're definitely going to be able to focus more on the training at hand.”

Professional Military Education is a unique opportunity for Marines to interact with and learn from peers and seniors who offer different perspectives from their experiences in the Marine Corps.

“These Marines are getting a taste of a lot [of the Marine Corps] that they might not have seen so far in their career,” said Gilbert. “A lot of these Marines are young. It's their first activation and the biggest thing that they're probably going to take from this is how to progress their careers from here. Every Marine here has basically asked us a question of ‘I want to do this, how do I do it?’ or ‘what's next for me here?’”

“NCOs are the backbone of the Marine Corps”.Cpl. Stefan Kovacs, HQ Company, 23rd Marine Regiment

Students in this course can already see the impact that completion will have on themselves and their units.

“Since we are going to be PME complete when we go back to the rear, we are going to be able to focus on other missions and other requirements that we have to do for our unit,” said Cpl. Stefan Kovacs, an Intelligence Specialist with Headquarters Company, 23rd Marine Regiment. “I can focus more on the other parts of being a Marine and using the skills I learned here to be able to complete missions.”

Reserve Marines usually attend PMEs aboard Marine Corps installations under a temporary additional duty (TAD) status and spend that time focused on the course. Since these Marines are deployed in support of OAW, they have collateral duties in addition to being students.

“I know a lot of the Marines have to go back to their respective training sites within OAW and carry out their own tasks for the day. At the company level, we're still completing T&R (training and readiness) tasks once we leave here,” said SSgt. Gilbert.

Many students hold individual billets within their units that require them to complete extra tasks daily on top of their course requirements.

“They're doing their best to progress their own career, and then they're also going back at the end of the day and still carrying out the plan of the day with their company commander's intent.

23rd Marines Conducts Corporals Course During Operation Allies Welcome Photo by Cpl. James Stanfield

This iteration of Corporals Course has been compressed into eight training days, instead of the traditional 14, with the intentions of returning the corporals to their units as quickly as possible.

U.S. Army E-4s must attend their own PME, Basic Leader Course (BLC), before promoting to the rank of sergeant, but attending a Marine Corps Corporals Course offers them a first-hand look at the development of Marine Corps leaders.

“I think it’s a beneficial thing: seeing different leadership styles, adding more tools to your toolbox, and doing integrated training, especially while we’re here [supporting OAW],” said Spc. Kiethen Lee, 919th Military Police Company.

SSgt. Gilbert could see the benefits of this joint training opportunity as well. “I think the two [Army] specialists are definitely going to be able to take some of our Marine Corps jargon, and take it and be able to translate that into their own leadership styles.”

Marine corporals are expected to be leaders and Corporals Course is designed to equip them with the tools to meet and exceed those expectations.

“NCOs are the backbone of the Marine Corps. A lot of the daily operations get delegated down to the NCOs and the NCOs make it happen,” Cpl. Kovacs says. “A lot of these guys already have experience but doing this formal PME course really helps us to develop our leadership skills to be able to more effectively complete the commander's intent."