CAMP AL TAQADDUM, Iraq --
Over the course of the last five months, 17 Marine officers and staff noncommissioned officers with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) at Camp Al Taqaddum have been working towards completing their Professional Military Education qualifications through the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Warfare School Distance Education Program while forward deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
EWS, typically a nine-month course taught in Quantico, Va., is designed to provide a career-level PME program with emphasis on combined arms operations, warfighting skills and tactical decision making focused on preparing Marine leaders to successfully take on the role as commanders and staff members within the Corps’ ranks.
Although the students taking the course at TQ were only able to complete three of the seven modules needed to finish the nonresident course, they were still able to cover a significant amount of material considering they continued to fulfill their duties while deployed to Iraq. In the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an opportunity to progress in one’s military education with seminars such as EWS would have been difficult to accomplish. Today, the improved security conditions in Al Anbar have enabled service members to accomplish their set mission, while giving them more flexibility to also work on their professional development.
The course instructor, Lt. Col. Noel C. Stevens, communications officer for the 2nd MLG (Fwd), volunteered to implement a seminar aboard TQ after a personal experience he had taking a PME course without the added benefit of a regional program. In 1999, Stevens was stationed in Saudi Arabia where he served as a brigade advisor to the Royal Saudi Marine Forces. During the course of his one-year tour, he found time to take the nonresident Command and Staff program.
“I remember the day I received my box full of books and started the course on my own without a support structure or student network to assist me,” said Stevens. “It was one of the most challenging programs of instruction that I have ever completed, and as I struggled through it, I recognized the many benefits that a seminar program would have offered me.”
The seminar Stevens led aboard Camp TQ represented a diverse mix of Marines trained in different military occupational specialties, demonstrating various skill sets and experiences found within the Marine Air Ground Task Force. Participants included infantrymen, logisticians, communications officers and pilots. But no matter what the student’s role or job is in working towards their respective mission in OIF, the course proved to be a rewarding experience for all.
“The course expanded my knowledge base of various professional topics and improved my skills as an officer,” said 1st Lt. James McKeon, 2nd Supply Battalion communications officer and student during the course. “EWS will, and already has, make me a better leader of Marines through the professional topics it has exposed to me.”
Taking the course in a deployed environment had its added benefits. Students were able to learn firsthand how the Marine Corps Planning Process comes into play when preparing for major missions or operations. Students were also able to draw on examples from the MAGTF organization and use it as a tool to provide clarity to the doctrine that was being presented throughout the curriculum, explained Stevens.
Aside from gaining more credentials as a Marine leader, the course will also make each student more competitive for promotion. Although it is not mandatory for officers to complete their listed PME, EWS looks very favorable for a Marine considering the Corps as a career.
Before the commencement of an officer promotion board, the convening authority, whether it is the Secretary of the Navy or Commandant of the Marine Corps, issues a precept that serves as a guideline for board members to use when choosing the most qualified individuals for promotion.
According to the precept issued by the Secretary of the Navy before the 2008 major’s promotion board, PME is described as “… a valuable and important aspect of a Marine officer’s professional development.”
The same precept also pointed out that “the successful completion of Amphibious or Expeditionary Warfare School demonstrates an officer’s commitment to self-improvement and represents a desire to prepare for positions of increased responsibility.”
Once they return to their respective home stations, the Marines will be able to use the tools they’ve developed during their time at TQ’s EWS program to finish the remainder of the modules needed to become PME complete.