Camp Fallujah, Iraq -- Off in the distance, the sounds of impacting mortar rounds rang out. Marines emptied the large, improvised parade deck and huddled in the stout cement bunkers, some with ceremonial swords still in hand.
After a while, the Marines filed out one by one, and continued tutoring each other in leading a platoon in drill.
Holding a corporals course at Camp Fallujah, Iraq, not far from its namesake - the turbulent city of Fallujah - has challenges all its own.
"At Camp Pendleton, the Marines would take a 15 minute break to smoke a cigarette, said Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Gremblin, the 9th Communication Battalion sergeant major and speaker at the first corporals course graduation. "Here, they take a 15 minute break in a bunker avoiding indirect fire."
9th Communication Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force started holding its corporals course in July. After seeing the results, other units on the camp asked to enroll their own newly promoted noncommissioned officers.
"It is a positive asset for the unit," said Staff Sgt. Adam J. White, corporals course instructor and 9th Comm. satellite staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "(After the course) the Marine is motivated - ready to get it on."
According to White, he has seen a huge difference in his Marines that have gone through the course.
"I saw them under a new light," said the Spokane, Wash., native. "They've stepped up and taken charge."
Cpl. Edmund S. Unger, who previously attended a corporals course during his first tour in the Marine Corps, was surprised at how much he learned his second time through.
"I'm happier to have taken it here," said Unger, a radio technician with 9th Comm. and native of East Haven, Conn. "You don't have to run from incoming rounds back in Del Mar. I wasn't expecting to get anything out of it, but I learned a lot. I'm actually looking forward to (the) sergeants course."
The corporals course prepares the future of the Marine Corps for their positions as leaders of Marines, according to Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, the I Marine Expeditionary Force sergeant major, who spoke during the first corporals course graduation.
"Where do we get these types of Marines?" Kent asked. "Your leadership makes these Marines. You make these Marines."