ABOARD THE USS ESSEX -- Non-commissioned officers of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are role models and function as first-line leaders within their units. After being selected for promotion to the initial staff non-commissioned officer rank, they are encouraged to attend a Staff Sergeant Indoctrination Course to sharpen the edges of their leadership skills, so when they step into the billet of their new rank, they are comfortable and confident in their abilities.
Eight staff sergeant selectees, four staff sergeants and 10 first class petty officers of the MEU and USS Essex took advantage of this professional military education held in the ship’s classroom here Nov. 4.
The course was offered for the first time on ship through the MEU, integrating the Marines and sailors to help them transition into the next level of leadership, according to Sgt. Maj. James McKay, the MEU sergeant major who directed the indoctrination course.
“The Marine Corps has devised an indoctrination course for sergeants who get selected to staff sergeant and provide them more leadership training upfront to understand the difference between staff NCOs and NCOs.” McKay said. “It grooms them and enforces what is taught in Sergeant’s Course and what they will learn in SNCO Career Course. They must start thinking at a higher level, because as small unit leaders, they will be problem solvers and handle greater responsibilities. This course gives them the tools needed to help their Marines and sailors.”
McKay added that the course integrated the Navy petty officers to strengthen the relationship between the Navy-Marine Corps team. By allowing them to participate in the training, they too have the opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge that was presented.
This course, which complements the Sergeants Course, teaches small-unit leadership to the service members, covering subjects such as core values, leadership, financial management, substance abuse, sexual harassment, communication skills, award writing and domestic violence.
“The classes were very useful because they taught me the role of staff sergeant, which could have taken some time to learn through experience had I not taken this course. It’s a good transitional class,” said Staff Sgt. Nicolas Perez, an 81 mm mortar section leader with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, the MEU’s battalion landing team.
For sailors such as Petty Officer 1st Class Erik Wright, an aviation electronics technician aboard the Essex, the course shed some new light on his perspective of leadership.
“This indoctrination taught me a lot about the different styles of leadership,” said Wright. “Coming together as one with the Marines really broadened our horizon on the different aspects of leadership. It’s something I hope to do again in the near future.”
The Marines and sailors came from various occupational specialties, McKay said. Whether they were infantrymen, cooks, avionics technicians, religious specialists, administrative clerks or corpsmen, these service members have a path of customs to pursue in leadership and responsibility, and the indoctrination course provides them with the training they need to follow that path.