Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia --
Every year, dozens of U.S. Marine infantry captains check in to their new commands, eager to lead Marines and Sailors. However, previously there was no process in place to ensure that the Marines and Sailors within those companies were being led by the best and most qualified company commanders. The 2d Marine Division (MARDIV) is aiming to change that through the Division Leader Assessment Program (DLAP).
The first DLAP class of fiscal year 2022 concluded at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, Oct. 8, 2021. The new program included a series of training events that enabled the commanding general to set expectations of commanders, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and inform each infantry company commander’s assignment within 2d MARDIV. The result is confirmation that the right leaders are in front of the right formation, at the right time, and that all company commanders are mentally, morally, and physically fit for command.
“The most important assets to the 2d Marine Division are the young men and woman who made the choice to serve,” said Maj. Gen. Francis Donovan, commanding general, 2d MARDIV. “It is Sgt. Maj. Daniel Krause [division sergeant major of 2d MARDIV] and my job to make sure these young Marines and Sailors have the right officers leading them. This program not only tests and better prepares our newly-assigned infantry captains, it ensures that we’re doing right by our enlisted Marines and Sailors by providing them the leaders they deserve.”
Prior to the first iteration in 2021, the process of assigning an infantry company commander didn’t factor in the need of having someone with the right blend of leadership experience, professional development, and technical competency. DLAP was established as a proactive measure to positively influence the assignment process of inbound infantry captains and allow them to fill billets with proper skillsets.
To begin the evaluation process, Marines complete various “Zero Week” requirements at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, before traveling to Fort A.P. Hill. This includes fitness tests, electronic psychological testing, and tactical decision games.
Once they arrive at Fort A.P. Hill, the captains undergo a land navigation course, an infantry skills test, and a 20-kilometer movement. In addition to physical assessments, the captains are evaluated on mentorship, ethical decision-making, mindset, and rapid planning.
The division selects its most talented field grade officers and senior staff non-commissioned officers to evaluate, mentor, and interview the captains during the course, which allows for the best model of professional feedback, behavior, and credibility.
“The Division Leader Assessment Program assists in validating company commanders and ensuring that Marines have the best possible leaders in front of them,” said Capt. Caleb Hoffman-Johnson, an infantry officer with 3rd Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment, 2d MARDIV. “Those Marines can trust their company commanders have gone through a process that is demanding across the spectrum of what it takes to be a leader of Marines.”
DLAP takes place three times per year, which corresponds with officer assignment timelines. The holistic assessment contributes to the division’s mission to train and develop Marines- both officer and enlisted, who demonstrate an apex level of lethality, endurance, and comprehensive warfighting ability. It also increases the focus, competency, and preparedness of the leadership who will influence the next generation of infantry Marines.
“Finding yourself in the depths of some tough times and forcing yourself to perform to the standard is a valuable skill to have,” Hoffman-Johnson said. “This program challenged me comprehensively.”