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An instructor at the base Staff Non-commissioned Officer's Academy calls on a student during the I Marine Expeditionary Force staff sergeant orientation course. Nearly 200 staff sergeants-select and recently promoted staff sergeants throughout I MEF attended. The classes, held over two days, offered insight on what's expected as a Staff NCO. Marines learned everything from the fitness report process to leadership techniques. I MEF worked with the academy to develop the curriculum. I MEF senior enlisted leadership say they hope this becomes a yearly event.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter

Welcome to the ranks: Newly selected staff sergeants attend orientation course at Pendleton

25 Feb 2011 | Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter

Nearly 200 Marines recently got a glimpse of how the remainder of their military careers would likely look.

For a couple days in mid-February, I Marine Expeditionary Force staff sergeants-select, and some who just added the rocker, attended an orientation at the Staff Noncommissioned Officers Academy here.

The two-day course, a collaborative effort between the academy and I MEF senior enlisted leadership, was designed to ease the transition from sergeant to staff sergeant.

It can be a difficult adjustment said, Sgt. Maj. Robert Lederferd, the director of the SNCOA. This orientation was meant to help these Marines “step off with the same foot.”

“The idea came from a desire to put the most current information in front of our newly selected staff sergeants,” said Sgt. Maj. Scott Pile, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s sergeant major.

Topics ranged from understanding the fitness report process to leadership responsibilities at the SNCO level. The academy and MEF senior staff pooled sergeants and staff sergeants to help develop the curriculum. Sergeants were asked what they would like to learn. Staff sergeants were asked what they wished they had learned early on.

This isn’t supposed to be a replacement for the career course, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Javier Gonzalez, the deputy director of the SNCOA. “These are some of the things that you should know as a staff sergeant. It doesn’t mean you leave here and know it all.”

Staff Sgt. Davey Tucker, a platoon sergeant with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, said the orientation was helpful. With all that is going on at his shop, getting time to go to the formal seven-week resident course is hard. While that course is too long, he felt this was too short.

“I wish it was a week,” Tucker said.

The highlight for Tucker and many of the other Marines who attended was a two-hour class given by Sgt. Maj. William Skiles, the Marine Corps University sergeant major.

He focused on getting back to face-to-face mentoring of Marines. He said Marines today tend to be in too much of a hurry, and a lot of leadership happens over e-mail and Facebook. He stressed that leaders need to talk to their Marines, “not IM (instant message) or text, but talk.”

Through that eye-to-eye contact, he said, leaders can actually see potential issues before they become out of hand.
Skiles said he flew from Quantico, Va. just to give his class partly because he believes senior leaders owe more to newly promoted staff sergeants than just a promotion formation. However, he didn’t do it just for those individuals who attended.

“When we say something to a staff NCO, it might help them take care of their younger Marines. When we talk to our Marines, hopefully they will pass and share with others,” he said.

Feedback from the course has been uniformly outstanding, said Pile. “We would like to believe that this will become an annual event within our MEF following the selection board.”