Marine learns leadership through adversity

Marine learns leadership through adversity

PFC Spencer Knudson, Platoon 3201, Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, posts security during a Crucible event on Edson Range aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton San Diego, Calif. Knudson was selected as guide of his platoon on Training Day 4 and was able to sustain his leadership position throughout Recruit Training. Photo by Cpl Liz Gleason.

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO (May 2, 2013) - Every recruit that steps onto the famous yellow footprints aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego has their own story. They come to recruit training at various ages, with different backgrounds, life experiences and goals.

While some may have joined on a whim or tradition, PFC Spencer Knudson, Platoon 3201, Company I, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion meticulously planned it out.

From the first day he walked into a Marine Corps recruiter's office four years ago as a college student, it was clear to him that it was where he wanted and needed to be.

"I feel like being a Marine is my calling—it feels like I'm meant to do this," said Knudson, a 24-year-old.

Knudson decided to join the Marine Corps' Officer Candidate School program while finishing his biology degree.

Just as Recruit Training molds recruits into enlisted Marines, OCS is a program created to make college students into well-rounded officers. Candidates are challenged physically, academically and in leadership abilities.

Knudson was determined to become a Marine, but was unable to meet the rigorous demands of OCS. He struggled with exuding confidence and delegating orders and was dropped for leadership failure.

"My head just wasn't in it," said Knudson, the Ogden, Utah, native. "There were a lot of little things going on at the same time and I couldn't handle it. I wasn't mature enough yet."

Although he was dropped from OCS and felt he was a disappointment to himself, family and friends, Knudson did not let it deter him. After earning his degree he decided to try again, however, the second time around he chose to go enlisted.

Soon after arriving at MCRD San Diego, Knudson's drill instructors thrust him into the top leadership position at recruit training; he became the guide of his platoon.

A guide serves as a liaison between drill instructors and the recruits. He has four squad leaders that help him with mission accomplishments. In order to be guide, one must display strong leadership qualities and be able to find a balance with their peers.

"Being guide was a big challenge and a bit scary," said Knudson. "It brought back thoughts of OCS. It shook my confidence because I was put into a high leadership position and that is what had happened at OCS and I failed."

Even though Knudson lacked confidence in his abilities, his drill instructors believed in him and encouraged him to push through the insecurities.

"In the beginning he really struggled with taking charge of his peers and telling them what to do," said Sgt Jeffery Tarvis, drill instructor, Plt. 3201, Co. I, 3rd RTBn. "We coached him and helped him find the balance with his peers as a leader. We helped him understand that being a leader isn't about how many friends you have—sometimes you just have to be the guy no one likes. You have to make sure they do what they're told or the mission won't be accomplished."

With the encouragement of his drill instructors and learning from his mistakes at OCS, Knudson was able to push through his insecurities and sustain the position of guide throughout the duration of recruit training.

"He's a great guide," said PFC Evetts Zachariah, squad leader, Plt. 3201, Co. I, 3rd RTBn. "He always made sure that the squad leaders and recruits knew what to do, he kept the platoon in check and he didn't just stand around and give orders, he led by example and completed tasks with everyone else. He was always on-the-go trying to help everyone out."

After graduating from recruit training, Knudson will continue training at the School of Infantry and one day aspires to commission as a Marine Corps officer.

"With the right guidance he's going to do well in the Marine Corps," said Tarvis. "He's taken everything we've taught him, applied it and improved."

Through all the hard times and disappointments, there has always been one constant for Knudson, his desire to become a Marine. He's taken his failures, learned from them and embraced them.

"The hard times are only moments," said Knudson. "I want to be a Marine—I want to get dressed up in my dress blues. I want everyone to know I'm a Marine. This is the goal that I've always wanted to accomplish, nothing else matters." is the official website of the United States Marine Corps and is maintained by the Marine Corps' Division of Public Affairs.