AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Throughout the Marine Corps, tens of thousands of enlisted Marines hold the title of noncommissioned officer. The title holds great significance with regard to leadership development and Military Occupational Specialty proficiency. For many NCOs, the title marks a big step in an enlisted career, in which emphasis is placed on leadership abilities and professional development of junior Marines. From NCO to staff NCO, the title comes with unique and formidable challenges, but some Marines strive for more.
Staff Sgt. Amanda Jones, intelligence chief, Sgt. Joseph Morrison, personal computer intermediate repair technician, and Sgt. Brandon Fritts, an ejection safety equipment mechanic, all with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3, have successfully completed the requirements and been accepted to the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program when they return from their current deployment aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
“I knew if I re-enlisted, I would start thinking about making it a career, and [becoming an officer] was the best decision I could have made,” explained Morrison. “I started thinking about where I see myself in the future and what I want out of the Marine Corps. The MECEP program was always in the back of my mind, and as soon as I raised my hand to re-enlist, I knew that’s what I wanted.”
MECEP affords enlisted Marines the opportunity to attain a bachelor’s degree, while receiving the salary of their enlisted rank.
“You are going to school to get a [commission] with the Marine Corps, which will allow me to get my bachelor’s degree, and get paid while I’m in school, which is a big plus,” noted Morrison.
When applying for MECEP acceptance, many factors are taken into account, including prior service records and statistics, achievements and enlisted misconduct, if applicable. Morrison’s prior achievements as an enlisted Marine, including three meritorious promotions, raise the question of why he would change careers.
“Don’t get me wrong, [my enlistment] has been an amazing run, but as an officer, you’re going to have the highest impact on your Marines,” Morrison began. “As an NCO we have small unit leadership, but as an officer I can take a large group of Marines and bend, shape and mold them how I feel the Marine Corps needs them to be.”
Officers hold a large responsibility to nurture and develop their unit in the best way they see fit. Ultimately, the efficiency and well-being of a unit depends on the decisions and actions of the commanding officer.
“As an officer, I want my Marines to have passion in what they do,” said Morrison. “I always say, ‘make sure you have pride in what you do.’ It could be something as simple as re-tipping an internet cable, but do it to the best of your ability.”
While some Marines like Morrison accept the challenge of becoming a Marine Corps officer because they believe they have something beneficial to offer the enlisted ranks, there are many other reasons for choosing to pursue a career as an officer.
“I’ve done everything I feel I can do in my job,” said Fritts. “I have the highest qualifications I can get here, and I run my own work center. I’m at the point where I need a new challenge for myself, and MECEP is that challenge.”
Whatever reason brings a Marine to consider MECEP, whether a college education, a new challenge or to impress knowledge on young minds, it is the beginning of a conversion into the ranks of the finest military officers the world has to offer.