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The Corps is developing a new speaking course for noncommissioned officers, a move aimed at strengthening their ability to mentor junior Marines and leveraging their leadership status to improve safety across the force.
The initiative, to be led by Training and Education Command in Quantico, Va., was recommended by a contingent of corporals to members of the Corps’ Force Preservation Board, which includes top brass from major commands across the service. Led by Assistant Commandant Gen. John “Jay” Paxton, the group focuses on efforts to enhance unit readiness by keeping Marines physically, mentally and morally fit.
“Through the most recent discussion with NCOs, they identified one of the barriers that hindered them from enhancing their ability to affect force preservation initiatives was the lack of effective communication and mentoring skills that are needed to deal with their junior Marines,” said Master Sgt. Mildred McIntyre, the senior enlisted adviser at the Marine Corps’ Safety Division.
Rather than focusing on public speaking before large audiences, the new course should emphasize one-on-one — or so-called “knee-cap-to-knee-cap” — conversations, said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon. Such skills should help NCOs, who are expected to counsel Marines about everything from financial problems to sexual-assault prevention and motorcycle safety.
The Marine Corps considers its NCOs the service’s “backbone.” Increasingly, officials have looked to corporals and sergeants to play a significant role in grooming junior troops for future leadership roles — and spotting personal troubles that could indicate who may be at risk of committing suicide or jeopardizing others’ safety.
According to McIntyre, NCOs who attended the latest Force Preservation Board told leaders that without better communication skills, “junior Marines will not come to us for guidance.” They expressed a desire for new training “in order to understand what is expected of a mentor and the role of a mentor within the Marine Corps,” she said.
Officials hope the net effect will be fewer safety mishaps.
Efforts to develop the course have only just begun, so there is no curriculum established, and it’s not immediately clear where or to whom it will be taught.
The new course could be taught at various points in a Marine’s career, officials said. It could be a standalone course, or it could be rolled into existing professional military education like the Corporals Course or Sergeants Courses, Flanagan said.