Training with Marines: Week Three

This is the third blog entry for Master Sgt. David Wolfe, a security forces Airman from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., who is training at the Marine Corps Staff NCO Academy at Camp Pendleton in southern California. He volunteered for it after learning slots were available for Air Force senior NCOs.

“I knew this would be a challenge and the opportunity to work with the Marine Corps for seven weeks sounded like an awesome chance to grow personally and professionally,” said Sergeant Wolfe, who enlisted in the Air Force in 1992 and has served all over the world, to include the Middle East, Germany, Italy, Alaska and Wyoming. “My wife did three years in the Marine Corps and my oldest son enlisted last summer just after I left for Iraq, and is currently in tech school, so we have some family connection to the Corps as well.”

You can read his previous experiences HERE and HERE.

Week 3

The Marine Corps Advanced Course marches on here at Camp Pendleton with the academic schedule accelerating over the last two weeks. As of today, we are finished with the officially graded assignments and everyone seems to have done well.

PT has been tough as usual. I mentioned in my last post we were scheduled for a run called baby tears, and it was difficult – as advertised. A 4-mile run to the top of a training range, followed by a run back down to the bottom. Climbing for two miles straight does a number on your legs, and coming down, while faster, is equally as hard on the knees and ankles. We followed that up the next day with a circuit course, and one of the stations was the o-course itself.

The academic week was focused on the Marine Corps version of our OJT program, with an in-depth analysis of how the Marines ensure combat readiness across the Corps. Some similarities exist, but the system is largely focused around the idea of a constant training environment, something we sometimes cannot enjoy with home station mission requirements.

One of the highlights of the week was a pt session called run-swim-run. Camp Pendleton is divided into many geographically independent camps. Since our camp does not have a pool, we ran to an adjacent camp, a two-mile journey through the woods and brush on a trail with a few ups and downs. At the end of the two miles, a quick shower was followed by a refreshing dip in the pool. While I am not the strongest runner, I luckily have no problem in the pool. A quick down and back, and we were out of the pool and back on the trail to our camp. In the end, a four-mile run, with a quick swim in the middle. It was a great PT session, and of course it was competitive as usual. The pool being the great equalizer, I was able to improve my finish by about 25 places.  

A few group mentoring sessions this week with the Sergeant Major (equivalent of our CMSgt), have left me with a better understanding of the Marine Corps rank structure and relationships between the senior enlisted ranks. A split occurs when Marines are promoted to the grade of E-8, with some Marines becoming MSgt’s and some pinning on the rank of First Sergeant. I was able to provide a brief synopsis of our rank structure, hopefully shedding some light on our promotion system.

We ran a second Marine Corps PT Test this morning. It was not for score, just a measuring stick for the schools PT program. I can attest it has worked, as my 3-mile run time improved nearly two minutes, and I was able to keep myself in a new group of runners on the way. Even though every Marine knew the score did not count, everyone I saw was giving 100%, another testament of the dedication of these great professionals.

More from Camp Pendleton on graduation week.

(Picture attached: Gunnery Sergeants Truite, Raterink, and Standifird, along with me getting ready for the PT test 2 June 2010. The shirt we are wearing is the school PT uniform.)