Thursday, June 11, 2015

USNA's Leatherneck 2015: Marines Making Marines

By MC2 Tyler Caswell

More than 375 midshipmen entering their final year at the United States Naval Academy are spending 4 weeks at Marine Corps Base Quantico for the Leatherneck evolution.

Photo by MC2 Tyler Caswell

Leatherneck’s four-part program gives first class midshipmen the opportunity to explore Marine Corps officer development. During the month at Quantico, midshipmen are evaluated on leadership, physical training and military skills. By incorporating the designs of Officer Candidate School and The Basic School (TBS), it is used as the primary evaluation for Marine Corps candidates at USNA.

“The atmosphere  Quantico has to offer for this type of training makes the location ideal,” said Maj. Brett Bohne, officer in charge for block one of the Leatherneck 2015 program. “TBS here at Quantico is where midshipmen choosing Marine Corps service will attend as soon as they leave USNA. We are familiarizing them with the location, equipment, facilities and resources, all while mentoring and instilling the ethos of a Marine Corps officer.”

The evaluations for possible candidates helps a cadre of experienced and seasoned Marine Corps Officers assess interested midshipmen for service selection during their first-class year at USNA. Of the 425 midshipmen showing interest in Marine Corps Officer service selection, only about 250 will be selected from the 2016 graduating class. The rapid adaptability and flexibility of their training at Leatherneck will be a key component in their transition to becoming 2nd lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

Photo by MC2 Tyler Caswell

“The Marine Corps was my number one choice coming to USNA and still is,” said Midshipman 1st Class Margo Darragh. “The Marine Corps has had a lot of influence on me these last three years at USNA. I wanted to do this training because I want to experience more what the culture of the Marine Corps is like. Everyone here wants to see if they have what it takes.”

Each week the academic and physical training progressively changes to incorporate and build upon itself to further shape midshipmen into Marine Corps officers. The grueling main field training exercises include leading and participating in fire teams to solve complex problems, commanding and controlling teams during fire team attacks, and a 5-mile obstacle endurance course. The activities build on each other, testing the performance of previous tasks at a larger more complex scale.

“It’s getting better every week,” said Midshipman 1st Class Bradford Mills. “It takes some adjusting while having the Marine Corps courtesies instilled in us. Now we are really starting to learn what it means to be a Marine Corps officer. There’s a way that you act and you treat the people you are leading. This goes for when you are leading squads and platoons in fire team exercises or even when you are eating your meals. We are learning what servant leadership really means.”

Photo by MC2 Tyler Caswell

Whether or not the participants become Marines, the program helps the midshipmen become better leaders.

“They get a great taste of what the Marine Corps is about,” said Maj. Jacob Crespin, staff platoon commander for Leatherneck. “They have ideal examples of both officers and staff non-commissioned officers leading them through this training. They get great instruction of Marine Corps leadership, accountability for their actions, and accountability for their peer’s actions which will directly affect them in their careers no matter what service they select.”

Find more photos at the USNA Flickr site.

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