Developing Future Leaders Aboard the USS Oak Hill

22 May 2002 |

Although currently forward deployed in the war against terrorism, the senior Marine leadership aboard the USS Oak Hill is still finding time to ensure the professional development of its junior leaders.

In the time since the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) left Camp Lejeune in late February, the Marines aboard the Oak Hill have completed one iteration of the Corporals Course and begun a second.

"It's a good idea having the course out here," said Cpl. Eloy G. Cardenas, of Houston, Texas, a combat engineer with the BLT's engineer platoon.  "Here the Marines can pay 100% to the course because there are no distractions.  They can focus entirely on the subjects."

The two-week course is being instructed, and attended by, Marines assigned to MEU Service Support Group 22 and Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 6th Marines.  There are currently 17 Marines attending the course, with 20 graduates from the previous course.

The two-week course is being attended by Marines assigned to MEU Service Support Group 22 and Battalion Landing Team 2d Battalion, 6th Marines.  The first course graduated 20 Marines and the second course has 17 Marines students.  The instructor cadre consists of staff non-commissioned officers from MSSG-22 and BLT 2/6 who have volunteered their time to help the Corps' next generation of leaders.

"My primary duties as a squad advisor are to council and help the Marines if they are having trouble in a certain area," said Staff Sgt. Kevin M. Ferree, of York, Pennsylvania, a corporals course squad advisor who guides the Marines in their first professional military education school.  "I get to see the problems young NCO are having to face and help them overcome them so they can learn the skills they need to lead Marines."

The 26-year-old platoon guide for BLT 2/6's combat engineer platoon volunteered for the position along with a staff sergeant from MSSG-22 and said he feels privileged to help younger Marines become better Marines and more capable NCOs.

Subjects covered during the Corporals Course include Marine Corps history, physical fitness, leadership, Marine Corps administrative procedures, and close order drill, among others.  The syllabus for the course is set by the Marine Corps University, and despite the unique school location, the curriculum aboard the Oak Hill is rigidly followed.

According to Gunnery Sgt. Peter G. Peterson, MSSG Operations Chief and corporals course class coordinator, space considerations aboard the ship require minor modifications to the course.

"With the exception of changes to the PT (physical training) program and wall locker inspections, we accomplish the same as the course on Camp Lejeune," said Peterson, a New Jersey native and former drill instructor.  "Our biggest problem with the course on the ship is space.  We sometimes end up having outdoor classes when they should be indoors, but that is the way we adapt and overcome."

Peterson said that in addition to the intense course of instruction, the Marines must  still maintain their roles in their respective units, something Marines attending the course on bases and stations do not normally have to do.

Lance Cpl. David L. Harris is a military policeman assigned to MSSG-22 and said the course has helped him become a better leader.

"I think everyone should seek self-improvement," said Harris, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.  "This is teaching me things that I will take back to help my Marines become leaders themselves."

The Oak Hill's sister ships in its deployed amphibious ready group, the USS Wasp and Trenton, are planning similar courses for their embarked Marines.

For more information on the 22d MEU (SOC), visit the unit's website at
22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit