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Enlisted In Marine Corps To Pursue New Challenges
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jack Chen
June 4, 2022

U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Jonathan T. Howard was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. Like many service members, Howard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps to pursue new challenges.

Raised by a mother who taught him that only hard-workers deserve praise, Howard developed a strong moral compass and took opportunities to succeed whenever he could.

April 7, 2022 - U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Jonathan T. Howard, a legal services specialist with Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Marine Forces Command, Marine Forces Northern Command, conducts a Marine Corps Martial Art Program course at Camp Elmore, Virginia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack Chen)
April 7, 2022 - U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Jonathan T. Howard, a legal services specialist with Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, Marine Forces Command, Marine Forces Northern Command, conducts a Marine Corps Martial Art Program course at Camp Elmore, Virginia. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jack Chen)

Despite living in a neighborhood where his friends and peers lacked any passion for achieving meaningful goals, he wanted more out of life and refused to be influenced by his peers. Armed with the required work ethic, Howard reached out to his local U.S Marine Corps recruiter who revealed how the Marine Corps service benefits extend beyond a solid career path, travel experience, and tuition assistance.

“I joined the Marine Corps right after graduating high school.” Howard continued, “I used the Marine Corps as an outlet to get out of the stagnant lifestyle in my neighborhood and to actually do something successful with my life.”

Howard left for recruit training on Aug. 15, 2016 to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. Recruit training was a life-changing event for Howard, as he was constantly put under stress and exhaustion to test his physical, mental, and ethical toughness. After earning the title U.S. Marine, he continued to leave his comfort zone by seeking new challenges to improve himself, just as his mother taught him.

Howard graduated with the military occupational specialty (MOS) legal services specialist (MOS 4421) from the Naval Justice School at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island. While assigned to his current and fourth duty station, Howard was presented with the opportunity to train as a martial arts instructor (MAI), therefore he immediately applied.

“I always like new opportunities, so when the chance to enroll in the MAI course became available at my duty station I immediately signed up for it.” Howard continued, “The MAI course is a 15-day training course that tests the Marines’ mental, physical and character discipline in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP).”

MCMAP aims to strengthen the mental and moral resiliency of individual Marines through combat training, warrior ethos studies, and physical training. MCMAP produces Marines and units that are more lethal, exhibit greater resiliency, and are equipped to handle the rigors of combat. MAIs are the unit’s means of developing mental, moral, and physical strength of Marines through the use of MCMAP training.

After graduating from the MAI course, Howard became qualified to instruct Marines in hand-to-hand combat techniques. This allowed him to instruct Marines in upgrading their belt level. MCMAP consists of 5 unique colored belt levels; tan, gray, green, brown, and black. Every belt a Marine has earned is built on top of prior lessons learned in offensive and defensive techniques. Marines become more competitive for promotion as their belt level progresses. By going through the course, Howard experienced for the first time what it's like to be both a leader and teacher.

Howard stated, “The MAI course brought me out of the role of a student and changed me into becoming a coach, mentor, and teacher.”

The MAI course also taught Howard how to push Marines forward, even when they think they don’t have anything left in them. By constantly exercising on a daily basis, they’ve been pushed to their limits, yet are still expected to properly execute techniques under exhausting conditions. He believes that regardless of how mentally and physically fatigued they become, there will always be stamina for them to try harder and push a little farther.

“I’m not the greatest at everything I do, it’s a learning experience for all of us. Everybody is at a different level so if somebody needs to go through something multiple times I’m willing to do it.” Howard continued, “It’s all a learning process and I will also keep learning.”

After joining the Marine Corps and graduating from the MAI course he continues to believe that his mother’s teaching is what led him to becoming the leader he is today. Howard strives to instill in his students that success is achieved only through hard work. His goal for teaching MCMAP is to encourage the Marines to approach new challenges with open minds, and create future instructors for the Marine Corps.

Howard says, “I hope to inspire some of these Marines to become instructors so they can come out here to carry on the traditions of teaching MCMAP.”

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