MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER, TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The Combat Center’s Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy opened its doors to the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business Feb. 27 and 28 when instructors of the academy’s Sergeants Course hosted students from USC’s master’s of business administration program.
The event, which is called the USC MBA Leadership Challenge, is sponsored by business school’s military veterans association in collaboration with the Combat Center and is focused on providing graduate students with a unique leadership experience that no classroom can provide, said Joseph Hernandez, USC’s MBA program coordinator.
Gunnery Sgt. M.L. Coe, the deputy director of the Combat Center’s Sergeants Course, said the exercise teaches the students leadership traits like quick thinking, working with speed and intensity, clear and efficient communication, team building, and small unit leadership.
These are skills the student can use on a daily basis in corporate America, he said.
In addition to promoting leadership, the program will help educate future civilian employers about the Marine Corps.
“It allows us here to showcase Marine Corps leadership, and that’s fun to do,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Donald T. Downey, the director of Sergeants Course.
Upon arrival at the Combat Center, the attendees received a command brief from the base’s community relations department detailing what they should expect and what was going to be expected of them.
Once introductions had concluded, instructors wasted no time educating their new students. The students received a demonstration on how to properly make a rack and then moved into their living quarters where they got their first lesson in teamwork - making their racks in an fast paced and detail oriented environment similar to recruit training.
The following day started early with reveille at 5 a.m.
Once again the instructors made the most of their time with the students.
Students received a weapons safety and handling brief at the Combat Center’s rifle range before cycling though the individual and crew served weapons at the Indoor Simulated Marksmanship Trainer. Next, students viewed a static display of an M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle, a 7-ton truck, and a Light Armored Vehicle.
Next the students and their instructors moved to the Combat Center’s Camp Wilson where they honed their decision-making and communications skills by participating in scenarios at the Virtual Convoy Course Trainer. Students also learned how to exit an overturned humvee at the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle Egress Assistance Trainer.
After returning to the main side of the base, the class traveled to and negotiated the Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School’s obstacle course. While moving on foot to the Combat Center’s main obstacle course, students encountered a simulated improvised explosive devise that forced them to assess casualties and transport them to a designated evacuation point using the gear provided.
As a final challenge and test of what they had learned the students had to negotiate the main obstacle course as a team carrying ammo cans, five-gallon water jugs, rubber rifles and any casualties suffered while en route.
Mike Droessler, a business student participating in the program, said the event was an amazing experience and was like nothing he had ever done.
Droessler, a native of Lafayette, Calif., said the professional and serious nature of the instructors taught the students many leadership skills and abilities no classroom or text book can, and showcased the importance of strong and efficient leadership.
He said he found the program’s constant focus on teamwork very valuable. The students’ discussions on unit cohesion in the classroom and the numerous practical applications, such as the rack-making exercises, really showed how necessary teamwork is to be successful.
After the day’s activities concluded Saturday, all involved gathered at Hashmarks, the staff noncommissioned officer’s club, to relax.
The program has come a long way since its creation four years ago and has a solid reputation amongst the students. Therefore the school has discussed expanding the program to an entire weekend event, Hernandez said.
Droessler, a first-year graduate student, concentrating in finance agreed with Hernandez and said that was why he attended.
“It has a reputation of being a good program,” said Droessler. “I knew I’d get a lot out of it.”