Senior airman severs joint boundaries in corporals course

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Mellor
  • 18th Medical Group
When I first received word I would be attending the Marine Corps Corporals Course on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Japan, I was immediately flooded with exhilaration.

It wasn't until I thought about what I was really getting myself into that the nervous anticipation settled in and gave me a good hard slap across the face.

This is what I joined the military for in the first place. I'm a hard charging, motivated, physical training enthusiast whose dream was to be an operator in the Air Force Special Operations Forces. Events took place beyond the control of this motivated dreamer and today, I contentedly hold my current position as a medic in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at United States Naval Hospital Okinawa.

The chance to attend the professional military education was a grandiose gift I'm certain I cannot repay. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I will always remember, and am eternally grateful to my leadership for their consideration and proactivity with regards to my enrollment.

The morning I arrived at the schoolhouse, I was all dressed up in my sharpest, most crisp service dress uniform. I entered the room being mindful every set of eyes was staring straight at me. No one was saying much; in fact, the room was silent save the sergeant issuing squad assignments to the line of corporal attendees in front of him. I managed to maintain a stoic confidence because, well, I had to. I was being judged, sized up and was predicted to fail.

The morning briefings by the sergeants and sergeant major gave way to an afternoon patrol mission in cammies and Airman battle uniforms. We leapt right into fire team organization and patrolling, land navigation, radio operation and reconnaissance.

I wasn't just a fish out of water. Compared to these Marines, I was a fish in the desert. It was on the drive home that night I fully realized my state of affairs. I was in the presence of sharp, proficient, passionate and athletic young professionals, and it was both a pleasure and an honor to share a classroom with each of them.

Monday morning, we engaged in the physical fitness test portion of the course. I don't know if anyone remembers Jan. 14, but it felt like typhoon conditions on Okinawa. We still conducted the PFT! It consisted of pull-ups, sit-ups and a 3-mile run at 5 a.m. in the intense rain and wind. Most of the Marines were able to secure 15-20 pull-ups and complete the run in less than 21 minutes. There were no stragglers. No one complained. All were motivated warriors.

As the days progressed I became more and more comfortable and seemed to fit right in with these devil dogs. I proved my competence in the classroom by achieving 100 percent on each cumulative test, perfection in the NCO sword and guidon manuals, and excellence in dress and appearance.

I proved my capabilities on the PT deck by keeping up during an 880-yard sprint in boots and ABUs while passing sand-filled ammo cans down the line, completing the Marine Corps obstacle course, securing my position during the entirety of the sergeant major's 7-mile run and even encouraging fellow Marines not to let their buddies see them get beaten by an Airman. I became a well-respected "honorary corporal."

The scope of the course was to teach small-unit leadership, and it was very successful. We discussed the importance of counseling and mentoring subordinates, and the techniques to both.

The importance of leading by example and ways to improve ourselves were paramount. As E-4s, corporals already have troops they supervise, counsel and are responsible for. They are not only exceptional performers in their career specialties, but are exceptional leaders of Marines.

As part of the curriculum, public speaking proved to be an interesting experience. I was tasked to instruct a class on planning for and conducting a reconnaissance mission using troop-leading steps according to Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 3-11.2, Marine Rifle Squad. Wow ... that was like a Marine teaching a room full of Air Force pilots how to maneuver a high-G barrel roll in an F-15.

I also was placed in charge of a 10-man land navigation squad and was tasked to locate and plot points on an area grid map, and navigate to them using a compass and azimuth. My squad was the first to return to headquarters, having successfully found all locations.

It was training elements such as these that really developed my self-confidence and taught me leadership skills. I was completely outside of my comfort zone, and I excelled. This improved my attitude every single day, made me more motivated to attack the next element and succeed. The application/attitude/behavior model became cyclical.

The corporals course was no vacation. It was extremely challenging, mentally demanding, physically humbling and exceedingly rewarding. My respect for enlisted Marines, their culture, their dedication to excellence and their professionalism is vast.

Several Marines told me I did a wonderful job of representing not just senior airmen, but the Air Force as a whole. Not only did that give me the old warm and fuzzy, but isn't that the point of joint operations; to sever boundaries between services and learn how to work together both at home and downrange when we're called upon? We need to be able to understand the structure and function of our sister services to better serve as the warriors this country needs. Integrity first, service before self, excellence in all we do, honor, courage, and commitment. Hoorah!