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Wounded Marines: Down, Not Out
by USMC Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wetzel - January 24, 2012

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BETHESDA, Md. (1/20/2012) — Marines who want to progress through the ranks of noncommissioned officer and staff noncommissioned officer frequently have the opportunity to go through leadership courses such as corporals and sergeants courses. These courses provide the basic fundamentals essential for Marines to lead their subordinates and provide structure and stability both in combat and in garrison. For Wounded Warrior Marines, the possibility of attending leadership courses wasn't previously an option. Today, the Corps is bringing the courses directly to the Marines.

The graduating class of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 16, 2012. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wetzel
The graduating class of the first Wounded Warrior Detachment corporals course at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 16, 2012. Photo by USMC Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wetzel

A group of Marines who sustained injuries during deployments graduated the first Wounded Warrior Corporals Course at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Md., Jan. 17.

"The detachment staff wanted something to help these Marines continue their professional development," said Gunnery Sgt. Boris Peredo, instructor with the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. Peredo was one of three instructors who volunteered to teach the two-week course.

"The biggest thing I try and get across to Marines is it's not about them; it's about the Marines they lead," Peredo said. "It's about putting their needs aside and being able to talk to other Marines and setting them up for success. Being able to say you're down but not out is a big part of leadership."

For many of the Marines taking the course, it gave them the opportunity to remember why they joined the Marine Corps and motivated them to continue their career in the Corps.

"The course challenged me to get back in the mindset of being an NCO," said Cpl. Rory Hamill, who sustained injuries to his right leg while deployed to Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment. "We can lose that mindset easily here since the focus is on recovery instead of being a Marine."

The course was identical to other corporals courses, including periods of instruction on sword and guidon manual, mentoring, counseling and how to effectively lead junior Marines.

"Obviously some stuff was altered, such as field operations and regular running, lifting weights or other activities our injuries prohibit," said Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who sustained injuries to the right side of his body from an enemy grenade in Marjah, Afghanistan in 2010 with 2nd battalion, 9th Marine Regiment.

Physical training wasn't the only aspect of the course altered for these Marines. Many events such as land navigation and sword manual were discussed in detail as opposed to performed due to the injuries of some of the students. Despite the challenges, the instructors ensured training topics were covered in detail so the Marines would be able to confidently train and mentor their junior Marines.

"They had to adapt a lot of the training schedule to the wounded Marines because, obviously, there are guys missing arms, guys missing legs who cant do everything," Hamill said. "They adapted but made sure we understood."

The Marines were thoroughly taught and tested throughout the course. The challenges they faced brought the Marines together and helped them embrace the fact that they remain a band of brothers.

"Not everyone was excited to come to class everyday but I think it makes the guys think about reenlisting and it puts the Marines priorities in order," Carpenter said. "It lifted morale and increased our motivation these two weeks we were together."

Although the wounded Marines signed up for the opportunity, many were admittedly apprehensive in the beginning but were appreciative of the experience by graduation day.

"I chose to take the course because I plan on staying in the Corps," Hamill said. "I love this organization. Being here and all the help I received, even after my injury, has motivated me even more. This is my family and I love it."

With the course now complete, these Marines can concentrate on their goals and their future in the Corps.

"Getting injured puts things in perspective and makes you grow up in your professional and personal life," Carpenter said. "I definitely consider reenlisting more now since before I was injured."

Although the experience was unique for the Wounded Warrior Regiment, it was a learning and growing experience for the students, the staff and everyone involved.

"Teaching these Marines makes you realize who you are as a Marine; I think I needed this more than they did," Peredo said. "It hits home because Im able to stand; Im able to move around and theyre not. These are good Marines and now they realize they have something to offer back."

Peredo said they got through to most of the class and reminded them things they forgot while being isolated from the Corps at the medical center.

"A lot of Marines treat this like a petting zoo, they come here because they feel sorry for the wounded Marines," Peredo said. "They dont need that, they need to be taught and trained like Marines."

The detachments goal is to continue corporals courses and other professional development for wounded warriors with classes at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C.

More photos available below

By USMC Lance Cpl. Daniel A. Wetzel
Marine Corps News
Copyright 2012

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