AL ASAD, Iraq -- Marine Attack Squadron 223’s deployed Corporal’s Leadership Course graduated nine students from class 02-06, Nov. 19, in an early morning ceremony near the Bulldog’s headquarters building at Al Asad, Iraq.
The 19-day course is unique because it teaches junior leadership principles in the midst of a combat zone.
The students in the course attended five hours of instruction each day, beginning at 5:30 a.m., and still completed a full day of work. It was demanding, but very much worth it, said the honor graduate, Cpl. Martice Burks, a ground supply clerk with Marine Aircraft Group 26.
“I think it was a great course,” he said. “It showed me what is expected of my rank and it shows you how to conduct yourself as a noncommissioned officer.”
Burks was the only Marine in the course who didn’t belong to VMA-223. The course was set up by Sgt. Maj. Courtney Curtis, VMA-223’s sergeant major. Until this year, Curtis spent his entire career with Marine ground units, and established the course to teach Marines some leadership traits he has acquired throughout the years.
“Young Marines don’t become leaders as soon as they become NCOs,” Curtis said. “They have to be taught, and that’s what this course is about.”
The course taught many of the same things as a stateside leadership course with some differences, such as no dress uniform inspections. But the Marines participated in martial arts sustainment training, and were given classes on how to influence young Marines. For one class, individual students gave the period of instruction.
“Being a leader is about setting the example,” said Curtis. “They need to learn these traits, and (periods of military education) are the right way (to teach them). It’s all about being proactive with leadership principles.”
Curtis used the various section chiefs within his unit to serve as instructors in the course. The biggest difference between Curtis’ course and one in the United States is the familiarity of the students and their instructors, he said.
“I had a mixture of drill instructors, recruiters and (military occupational specialty) school instructors,” he said. “Because they had experience in being instructors, they were able to teach the class with a clarity that allowed the student to learn more.”
Curtis came up with the idea to start the course after his unit had been in Iraq for about a month. He would give PMEs to his staff NCOs, NCOs and junior Marines Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays, respectively. He realized how much his Marines were learning from the instruction and decided to start a more formal program to help the NCOs in his unit.
“There wasn’t one person in (the command) who thought this was a bad idea,” he said. Everyone agreed we could make a difference.”
For those who graduated the course, it certainly did make a difference. “It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Burks. “It taught me how to lead and to use what I have to the best of my ability.”
“We now have nine more Marines who have a better understanding of leadership,” said Curtis. “If every one of these Marines apply what they learned, our squadron can’t help but be successful.”
The success of the course has convinced Curtis to lead another one in December, and other 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing units at Al Asad, Iraq, are already trying to get in.
“We’ve changed these Marines’ bearing, attitudes and ability to discuss and share ideas,” he said. “They all have a new focus, and can be an example for young Marines to follow.”