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A Corporals Course student dives into the sand to begin low-crawling during the ‘maneuver under fire’ portion of the Combat Fitness Test that the Marines in the course participated in March 10.

Photo by Pfc. Michael T. Gams

NCOs prepare for their future; Corporal’s Course offers new experiences

14 Mar 2009 | Pfc. Michael T. Gams

Corporals are learning new skills that will help them throughout their careers during this quarter’s Corporals Course at the Combat Center.

On March 10 the Marines in the course, which started March 6th, participated in the Combat Fitness Test, a first time experience for most.

“Corporals Course is the foundation, the building blocks of a career in the Marine Corps,” said Cpl. Lee Pieper, a Corporals Course student. “It teaches you how to be more professional.”

As part of the course, NCOs are trained to always be prepared for whatever situation is thrown at them.

As part of that training, Marines that are going through the course do many things to prepare for success, said Pieper, a New Prague, MN native. These include making sure all their uniforms are inspection ready and getting back into a garrison, classroom state of mind.

Marines also prepare by getting in good physical condition, said Cpl. John Guthrie, a Corporals Course student. The NCOs do physical training everyday and take both a Physical Fitness Test and a CFT.

“Maintaining that state of readiness is a skill that any Marine, especially NCOs should strive for at all times,” said Sgt. LaVon Petersen, the chief instructor for the course. “NCOs lead their Marines so they need to maintain themselves both in and out of uniform.”

Close-order drill is taught in the course for its ability to instill discipline, teamwork and instant obedience to orders.

“Drill is something most Marines don’t get the chance to practice much after boot camp,” Guthrie said. However, he said, it is something that Marines need to be proficient at.

Many units that are consistently in the field and deployed don’t get a chance to practice drill, Pieper said. Corporals Course reinforces drill taught at boot camp and also teaches NCOs how to properly drill with their NCO sword.

 In the course so far, the NCOs have learned skills ranging from healthy eating habits and physical training regiments, to sword manual and counseling junior Marines, said Cpl. Josh Anderson, the 2nd Platoon sergeant with the course.

For many of the NCOs, learning sword manual is a ‘new monster’ to tackle, he said. It requires hours of practice on the individual Marine’s personal time.

Because the NCO sword is used ceremonially and when leading troops, Marines need to know how to use the sword properly, said Guthrie.

In addition to tangible skills, the course focuses on helping promote better small unit leadership by having the Marines work as a team and helps enhance the leadership skills the Marines learned from their leaders, said Anderson.

“I’ve gotten more confident in talking to higher ups, peers and Marines below me,” said Cpl. Jessica Conceicao, a Corporals Course student and native of San Francisco. 

On top of teaching Marines to be more effective leaders, Corporals Course gives Marines an edge over their peers that haven’t gone through the course.

“I’ve been a Corporal for two years and seven months,” said Guthrie. “I’ve been on several promotion boards and was denied for promotion because I hadn’t taken Corporals Course.”

With this much emphasis placed on the course, any Marine who reaches the rank of corporal should request to participate in the course, he said.

Corporals that participate in the course learn many new skills that they will be able to implement from every day and for the rest of their lives. These skills help them to become more valuable to the Marine Corps and ultimately to the civilian world.


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