MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, California — The Marine Corps strives to keep its service members educated and ready to assume leadership roles of greater responsibility. To ensure readiness through good leadership and decision-making skills, mandatory periods of military education are required for every rank.
In January, staff sergeants from across I Marine Expeditionary Force participated in the first Career Course Seminar of annual year 2016, conducted by the College of Distance Education and Training on Camp Pendleton.
“Career Course Seminar is a 15-week iteration that only requires staff sergeants to attend one night a week for three hours,” said Mr. Harrison Tanksley, the CCS Chief Instructor with CDET. “It allows that Marine to stay within their unit, instead of attending the resident course for seven weeks.”
To create a more personal learning environment, seminars maintained an approximate ratio of 12 students to one facilitator.
“We all come from different backgrounds, and with a smaller group it led to more experience and ideas being added to the discussion,” said Staff Sgt. Sean Fordham, the chemical, biological, radiological, neurological chief for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
During the classes, senior staff noncommissioned officers shared their own experiences in order to help mentor the students.
“A sergeant major or master gunnery sergeant sits with those staff sergeants in a classroom setting for the three hours and discusses issues for consideration,” said Tanksley, a Thomson, Georgia native. “To ensure students are prepared for the discussion they are given a three-question quiz in a five-minute time limit and have homework to do prior to class.”
One main goal of the seminar is to give staff sergeants the ability to communicate at the same level as a company grade officer, so in the event that an officer is out, a staff sergeant is still capable of implementing the commander’s intent.
Tanksley added, “We try to instill in the students that a staff sergeant is a mentor to the new lieutenants as much as they are to junior Marines.”
To ensure the students are capable of being mentors and carrying out their commander’s intent, the course is broken into three different blocks: administration, warfighting and communication. In the event a Marine is sent on temporary orders to another Marine Corps base, the student can pick up class right where they left off.
“If a Marine goes somewhere else, all I have to do is let my counterpart know they are going to have a temporary student,” said Tanksley. “That student will pick up training with the temporary unit and upon returning to Camp Pendleton, finish out the course and graduate with the rest of his class.”
The ease of being able to continue class at different locations is beneficial to Marines attached to deployable units going through pre-deployment training programs.
“A Marine in a deployment cycle would have to dedicate themselves to seven weeks at the academy,” Tanksley expressed. “With the seminar, a student can go to the field for a week and the seminar instructor will work with them to prevent the student from being dropped from the class.”
Although working and going to school can be a hassle, many Marines are still able to tackle the challenge.
“This is definitely for Marines in deploying units. I have a lot going on, so breaking away to go to a traditional career course would not be feasible,” added Fordham, a native of Schenectady, New York. “It was useful to not have to leave the projects I’m working on and still finish my period of military education.”
Career Course Seminar provides the skills necessary for a staff sergeant to act as a problem solver, lead at a platoon level, mentor company-grade officers, and to lead and develop subordinate leaders.