CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq  —With the U.S. mission in Iraq changing direction from counterinsurgency to a responsible drawdown, Marines at Camp Al Taqqadum, Iraq are taking advantage of their slower operational tempo to maximize training opportunities.  To that end, in an effort to sustain their combat skills and develop leadership traits during their 13-month deployment, 47 Marine noncommissioned officers and Navy petty officers recently completed a two-week long corporals course aboard the base.   

During the course, the Marines are taught the fundamentals of leadership, drill and the history of noncommissioned officers.

“The purpose of the course is to train NCOs and give them the guidance they need to be better leaders,” said Sgt. Jermaine C. Francis, a corporal’s course instructor and squad advisor. “Also, to prepare them for situations they may be put into. We teach them what is expected of them and we give them pride in being an NCO.”

The typical corporal’s course is about three weeks long. In Iraq, the same amount of training is fit into two weeks.

“It’s important that we don’t keep the Marines away from the mission for longer than we have to,” Francis said.  “We have to stay on schedule and be punctual with everything.”

The Marines experience fast-paced days that consist of physical training, back-to-back classes, and two-hour drill sessions. 

“We can’t let the time restraints take away from the purpose of the course,” said Gunnery Sgt. Edward M. Walker, the course’s staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge.  “We have to fit a lot of information into a small period of time and still make sure the Marines comprehend each topic.”

The Marines are tested on subjects such as the fundamentals of leadership, equal opportunity and drill. They are given three written examinations, a sword manual evaluation and a drill evaluation, all of which test the Marines’ abilities as leaders.

“Everyone has something they need to work on as a leader,” said Cpl. Jared P. Lopez, a data and wire technician, Communication Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) and a student at the course. “It doesn’t matter how long you have been leading Marines, there is always more to learn. This course breaks down the fundamentals.”

These Marines will be the first to graduate from the corporals course on Camp Al Taqqadum, each leaving with more motivation, knowledge, and greater confidence to lead Marines.

“I feel like I will be a better leader when the course is over,” said Cpl. Ma K. Hernandez, a disbursing clerk with CLR-27.  “When we were asked in the beginning why we were taking the course, a lot of us were [required] to be here. Now we are happy that we did, we all benefited from it. I’ve learned a lot and it’s really motivating.”

Each command that allowed their corporals to attend the course accepted the loss of personnel in order to foster professional development and receive back more competent, professional and mature NCOs.

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