MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP GEIGER, N.C. -- Marines from across the II Marine Expeditionary Force nervously checked each other’s uniforms as they anxiously waited for their graduation ceremony to begin. Having completed the three-week School of Infantry Corporal’s Course, reputed throughout II MEF for its tough curriculum and physical training, they had much to be excited about.
However, no one got a pay raise, promotion or parade. No one won a vacation to an exotic locale or even a gift certificate to an uptown restaurant. The truth is all graduates left with nothing more than professional knowledge in Marine Corps leadership, but this reward left them fired up and ready to charge back to their fleet units.
Cpl. Thomas J. Geiser, 23, supply administrative clerk with Headquarters Company, Marine Aircraft Group-26, said he walked away from the course with a new sense of what it means to be a noncommissioned officer of Marines.
“I think it’s important to come here,” said the Gelton, Pa., native, who comes from a shop of approximately 25 Marines, of which only a handful are NCOs. “It gives us a chance to really understand what it’s like to lead Marines. Learning from the sergeants here, I know it will definitely help me overall.”
Geiser noted the course is tailored specifically to amplify the important role of small-unit leaders, and train corporals, “to be leaders among their own military occupational specialty and the Marines individually.”
“You hear it from your 1st sergeants and (gunnery sergeants) all the time, but when you actually hear it from a sergeant, another NCO, it goes over a lot better,” said Geiser. “You understand a lot more, and you listen a lot more, because they’re right around the same area you’re at.”
Graduation day has been the goal of class 08-06 from training day one. Counting down the days spent under a microscope in intense training, it may be surprising to learn some of the 54 graduates are bereaved at their parting.
“My opinion is that it’s like being in boot camp but not as severe,” said Cpl. Anthony Biggs, 20. “It’s like, near to graduation in boot camp, you’re leaving, but at the same time you have the satisfaction of having new friends from different places.”
“This has been a good class,” said Sgt. Charles Spencer, chief instructor of the course. “They’ve worked together well and done what they’re supposed to.”
Biggs pointed out another distinct advantage of training with Marines from a variety of MOSs, units and backgrounds.
“You have some type of connection everywhere,” said the maintenance administrative clerk for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 and native of Austell, Ga.
With his new, retrospective point of view, Geiser is sold on the idea of Corporal’s Course as an imperative staple in professional military education.
“I think every corporal should have to go through this before they pick up sergeant.”
The dismissal of class 08-06 is an ending, but also a beginning for the SOI instructors, said Spencer. With one class out the door, they’re ready and waiting for a new set of students to report.
Editor's note: This is the third story in a three-story series.