MEU forges well-rounded leaders while underway

23 Feb 2007 | Cpl. Jeremy Ross

The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit began a Corporals Leadership Course, here, Feb. 18, to introduce 47 Leathernecks from each element of the MEU to the fundamentals of being a non-commissioned officer (NCO).

Many of the Marines may be accustomed to participating in things such as close-order drill and unit physical training, but the 13-day course will teach the junior NCOs how to lead Marines through these types of events.

The course will also offer instruction on leadership concepts and traits; drill with the NCO sword; military history and customs; uniform inspections; military justice; and counseling and promotion processes.

Despite currently being in a deployed, ship-board environment, the MEU is committed to overcoming space and operational tempo conflicts to enhance the students' leadership skills, said 1st Sgt. Joseph H. Martin, company first sergeant for Weapons Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, 26th MEU, and the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the course.

Finding suitable spaces to carry-out the course on ship is a challenge, but flexibility and good communication with Bataan's crew and the rest of the MEU enables the course's 14 SNCO instructors to conduct a program on par with those taught in garrison locations, he added.

The knowledge the students gain during the course will supplement the training they have received throughout their careers to produce well-rounded NCO's capable of leading Marines and accomplishing missions, said Martin.

"What the students learn here is crucial, because while the Marine Corps and the students' home units have done a good job preparing [the students] for combat and support operations, we also need to teach them the traditional duties and responsibilities of Marine NCOs," he explained.

Having the chance to better themselves professionally is an exciting opportunity for many of the students, said Cpl. Phillip Quinones, a food service specialist from the MEU Command Element.

"If you are not motivated, this course will motivate you," explained the Brooklyn, N.Y., native.  "It includes almost everything a Marine has learned from boot camp on, but instead of following, you are starting to lead."

Having strong leadership in the form of well-rounded junior NCOs is crucial to the future and well-being of the Marine Corps, said Martin.

"Corporals are the backbone of the Corps," he said.  "They are the first line of working supervisors, charged with not only ensuring their Marines are properly trained, but also acting as working examples for their Marines on how to accomplish missions."

The MEU plans to continue shaping future Marine leaders with additional Corporal Leadership Courses for the unit's forces here as well as those aboard USS Shreveport and USS Oak Hill.

The MEU is comprised of its Command Element; BLT 2/2; Marine Medium Helicopter-264 (Reinforced); and Combat Logistics Battalion-26.

The unit is currently deployed as the landing force for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group, which includes USS Bataan (LHD-5); USS Oak Hill (LSD-51); USS Shreveport (LPD-12); USS Nitze (DDG-94); USS Vella Gulf (CG-72); USS Underwood (FFG-36); and USS Scranton (SSN-756).

The Bataan ESG is currently supporting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in U.S. Naval Forces Central Command's area of operations.  Maritime Security Operations help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, and complement the counter-terrorism and security operations of regional nations.  These operations help deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack and transportation of personnel, weapons and other material.

The MEU departed North Carolina on its current, routine deployment Jan. 6.

For more on the MEU, including news, videos and contact information, visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.