CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Immediately upon proudly proclaiming "so help me God" at the end of the commissioning oath of office, Marine Corps officers are held to a high standard and challenged to be confident and decisive leaders.
The 1st Marine Logistics Group conducted a seminar open to all first and second lieutenants to garner knowledge and foster camaraderie within the ranks of lieutenants within the Group. Two three-day seminars, both in February, marked the first implementation of a course of this kind within the Group.
Stemming from the idea of the "5,000 year old mind," the seminar was created by MLG senior staff to foster and grow the foundation of leadership: education. Col. Phillip Frietze, the commanding officer of Headquarters Regiment, 1st MLG, expounded upon why the education of junior officers was brought to the front of the commanding general's concern.
"Over the past 14 years there has been a loss in the garnering and passing down of history and obligations for officers," Frietze explained. "The Commanding General and several senior officers discussed that loss, and the decision was made to provide a forum or course of instruction that would touch upon these responsibilities, obligations, and leadership traits, and what it truly means to hold, to practice and to preach those things."
The period of instruction covered a range of topics including leadership, administration functions such as awards and fitness report writing, customs and courtesies, available legal resources, logistical functions and more.
"I think of all the string of failures I had as a lieutenant, and thought ‘I wish I had someone talk to me about this, this, this …' and so I developed, through my own experiences and what I'd seen in our units, the backbone of the curriculum with the general's guidance," said Maj. Nicholas Borns, the operations officer for Headquarters Regiment, 1st MLG.
In addition to this initially developed curriculum, the staff has been and will continue to tailor the course based on feedback, within reason, from the lieutenants.
All of the instructors for the seminar were captains within the MLG, and benefitted from the course in their own way, as a refresher of information they had learned in the past.
"When you're an instructor, you learn just as much or more than when you're sitting in the class about yourself and how to do things better," explained Capt. Ross Pospisil, an instructor for the lieutenant seminar and the current operations officer for Headquarters Regiment, 1st MLG.
Pospisil also spoke about how the feedback was implemented in the development of the second iteration of the course.
"We trimmed the curriculum from the first iteration of the course, making it more reference-based. So we talked more about the concept and where to find the information, instead of necessarily walking the dog through the whole topic," Pospisil said.
Future course curriculums may include even more references, in what the instructors refer to as a digital ‘kit bag' of documents and publications for the lieutenants to reference in upcoming daily endeavors.
"I think the references are the most important part of the course. We wanted to get some of the more senior captains to pass some lessons on to [the lieutenants]," Borns said. "The ultimate goal is to give them the tools to be successful, and for the people who have the experience to pass that on to them. This could start other officer training, which is definitely important."
In regards to the ‘other officer training' mentioned by Borns, the MLG staff is in the production and development stage of conducting a similar seminar for the captains to grow the critical middle layer of leaders in the Corps.
Another fantastic benefit of this course was the increased camaraderie and knowledge of peers that occurred during the three-day period.
"Building camaraderie, esprit de corps, knowing the resources of who is around you and what they are doing," is what Pospisil recalled as the biggest benefit of the course. "We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and it's important as an officer to know which Marine has those strengths and foster that team aspect within the MLG."
The courses on leadership foundations and everyday practices triggered self-examination and truly caused the lieutenants to ask themselves the difficult questions, and dive deeper into their leadership style and practice.
In addition to the course provided for the lieutenants, there was a one day supplemental course provided to spouses on a volunteer basis. This course enabled the spouses to feel included and truly buy into their spouse's experience in the Corps.
"When an officer enters the Marine Corps, he or she has an obligation. When they are married, they may not realize that they as a couple have an obligation," Frietze said. "When that spouse is integrated and understands what their spouse does for the Corps and how the Corps functions as a whole, it makes it much easier for them to support their spouse, makes the experience more pleasant, and increases camaraderie and interaction with the families."
According to Freitze, this multi-faceted approach to growing our Corps' junior leaders will likely continue in the MLG "probably twice a year, perhaps quarterly" as to best educate the leaders, but also not stop the functions of the Group.
The MLG staff as a whole hopes that these young officers take the information presented to them during the seminar and become more effective by employing the guidance in their daily endeavors.