Corporals Course empowers next generation of leaders in Afghanistan

Corporals Course empowers next generation of leaders in Afghanistan

SgtMaj Paul Archie (left), the guest of honor at the Corporals Course graduation for Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), presents a graduating certificate to Cpl Lee Walls, a Port St. Lucie, Fla., native, during a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan. Photo by Cpl Paul Peterson.

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan (Oct. 26, 2013) - They have a covenant of responsibility to tradition, mission and the Marines they lead. The ability to uphold the covenant, however, is not issued with their rank.

For Marine corporals, leadership must be pondered, studied, honed and implemented by will – facts not lost on the graduates of Corporals Course Class 063-13.

Leadership was already a daily reality for the 39 deployed Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), who took part in the course here, Sept. 29 to Oct. 14. 

Cut off from traditional education venues and in the midst of combat operations, the regiment's leadership elected to create and run their own certified course in Afghanistan.

"These corporals, these leaders, are the ones who are going to take our spots whenever we're done," said SSgt Zane Moorman, a Tifton, Ga., native and staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the course. "We're going to give them what they should have." 

Moorman spearheaded the effort to develop the program and constructed a Marine Corps approved curriculum. He drew heavily upon the wealth of knowledge and experience already within the regiment by turning to the leadership of the unit's five companies. 

"There is so much history behind the rank you put on your collar," said SSgt Larry Morales, an Orlando, Fla., native and instructor for the course. "I would go by there daily and see the Marines communicating with the other instructors. There were open forums where they could voice some of their own feelings and opinions."

Moorman and Morales, both seasoned drill instructors from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., joined forces with a cadre of Marine mentors. They hosted daily physical training sessions, practiced drill procedures, and conducted classes on Marine Corps history, traditions and small-unit leadership.

"As time went on, they opened up, and you could see the passion," said Moorman. "We constantly beat the door down about the basics. Always do the right thing. You don't have to be told. Your Marines are being held to the standard even when no one else is holding them to it."

The class took on a personality of its own, noted Moorman. The Marines developed a spirit of competition as peers. They criticized and advised each other.

"They will remember all these corporals for the rest of their Marine Corps careers," said Moorman. "Whether they are a phone call away or whatever the case may be, they will always remember: if there is a problem or an issue, they can call upon each other."

Moorman and the other instructors condensed the course timeline to accommodate operational realities. The course focused on the skills most applicable to their current situation as small unit leaders in a deployed environment. 

The classes focused on inspecting and controlling small formations, guiding at the squad and platoon level, and implementing the fundamentals of Marine Corps leadership. 

"We wanted to give the corporals something more relevant to them," said Morales. "At the end of the course, they all had the same passion, the same dive and esprit de corps. They're able to take whatever they learned back to their small fire teams and units and give it forward."

It would not have been possible without the support and trust of the regiment's command, added Morales. Corporals Course, which is now a requirement before promotion to the rank of sergeant, is a unique opportunity to shape the future of the Marine Corps.

CLR-2's leaders at the highest level entrusted Moorman and his team with a unique degree of freedom in developing and carrying out each period of instruction.

"[Corporals] are where the rubber meets the road," said Morales. "These Marines believe in their rank. They brought luster to it. It was amazing to see and have the opportunity to instruct them and get them there."

After the 16-day training period, the 39 Marines returned to their respective companies to continue their support of logistical operations in Helmand province. They also left an indelible mark on the course instructors. 

"This is a new generation of Marines," said Moorman. "Their feedback allowed me to sit there and listen to what they think. It really opened my eyes to their level and how they see things."

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