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Corporals’ Course ... Making Better Marines
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Shelby Karr
January 25, 2021

Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marines conducted a four-week-long Corporals’ Course, December 18, 2020 to January 14, 2021 on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.

The Corporals’ course provides new noncommissioned officers with the education and leadership skills necessary to lead Marines. The program of instruction consisted of classroom training, sword manual, land navigation, drill and a culminating event ... placing emphasis on leadership foundations and a working knowledge of general military subjects.

U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Support (H&S) Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, receive classroom instruction during Corporals’ Course on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 5, 2021. The program of instruction places emphasis on leadership foundations and a working knowledge of general military subjects. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shelby A. Karr)
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Support (H&S) Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, receive classroom instruction during Corporals’ Course on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 5, 2021. The program of instruction places emphasis on leadership foundations and a working knowledge of general military subjects. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shelby A. Karr)

“It encourages Marines to take a step outside of their comfort zone,” said Sgt. Angus Mastin, a Corporals’ Course instructor with H&S Battalion, and a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “They are placed with a group of their peers and forced to make leadership decisions throughout the course.”

To kick off the course, Marines were required to check in while wearing their Service Alpha uniform.

During the first and second week of the course, students conducted sword manual and drill, participated in group discussions held by the instructors and studied Marine Corps knowledge and history.

According to Mastin, Marines maintain and hold their traditions close to the chest by passing knowledge down through the ranks and having the confidence and ability to do so.

“It is how we maintain that standard of excellence all the way down the line, so we can count on their Marines when it is their turn,” said Mastin. “Corporals’ Course enforces those traditions and that excellent standard.”

During the third week of the course, the students put their knowledge and skills to the test. The Marines had to pass a multiple choice test, execute land navigation and complete the culminating event.

U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Support (H&S) Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, plot points on a map while conducting land navigation during Corporals’ Course on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shelby Karr)
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Support (H&S) Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific – Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, plot points on a map while conducting land navigation during Corporals’ Course on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 6, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shelby Karr)

“Corporals’ Course gives Marines a chance to experience things such as leading a platoon and your peers in a new way to give the rank of corporal a new meaning,” said Cpl. Joshua Cosme, a customer service maintenance noncommissioned officer with the Installation Personnel Administration Center, H&S Battalion. “It teaches Marines to step outside of their shell and have an opportunity to see themselves from a new perspective. It is a wake-up call.”

The final week consisted of the Marines preparing and giving presentations, passing a multiple choice test and a uniform inspection.

Finally, to signify the end of Corporals’ Course, a graduation was held to congratulate the Corporals.

U.S. Marines receive their Corporals’ Course certificate upon graduating on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 14, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shelby Karr)
U.S. Marines receive their Corporals’ Course certificate upon graduating on Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Jan. 14, 2021. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Shelby Karr)

In addition, they recited in unison, the NCO Creed and the Marines Hymn as a final goodbye prior to dismissal.

“The course has helped me learn new leadership skills and refined the ones I already possessed,” said Cosme. “Being exposed to new leadership styles, has given me a new point of view on different leadership styles that I can include into my own arsenal of tools and tactics."

Upon graduation, Marines return to their units with a surplus of new knowledge and skills to help lead and mentor their Marines.

“The end goal of Corporals’ Course is to develop these Marines into their own individual leadership identity,” said Mastin. “To get them comfortable with who they are going to be as a leader for the rest of their Marine Corps career.”

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