Thanks to SSgt San Miguel, an Infantry Marine and MECEP for answering our questions about the MECEP and OCS from a prior service Marines perspective.
As far as the difference between an MECEP applying to OCS and a college student, I am not too sure but I can speak on my process from the MECEP standpoint.
I want any Marine applying to the MECEP to know is that no one is there to help you or do anything for you.
I am not saying that no one has some knowledge of the program, there are a few MECEPs out there, but career planners have little knowledge of the program and they don’t know how to assist in the process. I truly think that the ability for a Marine to locate the information needed for the package and to understand the process is part of the assessment. When I knew that I wanted to submit an MECEP package the first thing that I did was locate the MARADMIN so I could decide what board, within that FY, that I wanted to submit for. From there I had the date that I needed the package done by and I was able to get on the MCRC webpage. Once I was on that page I was able to download and print off everything that I needed for the package; to include a checklist. As I made my way down the checklist I replaced the sample documents with the actual documents.
The culture shift was one that took a little more adjustment than I initially anticipated.
I think that the differences in OCS from recruit training and the habits that I had to break played a huge role. There are many differences between OCS and recruit training, so much so that there is a very small comparison. To me, the main difference between the two is that in OCS the sergeant instructors and the staff want to develop leaders, thinkers, Marines who are not afraid to take ownership at all costs. In recruit training, the main thing that was instilled in the recruits was the instant willingness to obey orders, discipline. The recruits had to do what they were told, how they were told, and do it fast with little to no question. These two approaches are highly effective in achieving the main goal, identify men and woman that can lead the greatest fighting force in the world and the other, recruit training, execute and fight in the greatest fighting force in the world. The one habit that I had to break while at OCS is my method of leading; it was one of inserting myself in the friction point and taking matters into my own hands. As a sergeant, my rank at the time of OCS, it is your job to execute and get the job done and at times it can be very abrasive. In OCS I had to learn how to delegate, using my chain of command, and as a company commander it is, not always appropriate to yell to correct or yell to gain the attention of subordinates.
My transition back to the fleet was not too difficult. I immediately started preparing to PCS, a PCS move comes with its own challenges to deal with especially with a family and getting mentally prepared to go to college.
As a MECEP, there is an interesting transition back to your unit, it is as if everyone expects you to act rank appropriate and at the same time they demand that you act as an officer.
To me, that was not a hard task, but nevertheless, it is a difference from the role that you played prior to OCS.
There is so much to talk about when it comes to OCS but I will summarize my time on Brown field. For me the hardest things about OCS was the length of time being there, accomplishing things that I have accomplished many times, and the liberty that we got on the weekends after week 3. I believe the first two points speak for themselves so I’ll explain the last point. Most would think, “How could liberty periods be a bad thing?” In my opinion, it disrupted the flow of training and every Sunday evening I had to get back into the groove of being there. It is a good tool for evaluating the candidates and their commitment to the Marine Corps, so I am not saying that it is horrible, but from a prior’s standpoint I think it was difficult to deal with; I would much rather go through the training straight with no interruptions.
In the Marine Corps, as in any other organization in the world, there are great leaders as well as poor leaders.
The most important thing that a junior leader can do is develop the ability to identify both and learn from them.
I think what aids in poor leadership is the fear to lead, the fear of spreading yourself too thin, and the fear of giving everything that you have. I live each day trying to make an impact on everyone that I have the ability to stand in front of. A leader cannot be scared of taking chances and leading, you do not have to be in charge to lead. Whether you have two seconds or three months, even years,
You must do everything in your power to make an impact!
Whether they see something that you do that they like and want to adopt or they see something that they did not like and will improve. A leader of Marines must never forget that their Marines are humans first and treat them accordingly. Lastly, as a leader, you must be willing to sacrifice everything you have for the better of your Marines. It is an easy thing to say but it is extremely difficult to execute. It is hard to make the decision to stay later or wake up a few hours earlier to ensure that you are 100% ready to give everything that you have when you get in front of your Marines. The sacrifice comes when it’s your wedding anniversary or your child’s birthday but the right thing to do is train your Marines. When you are scared to lead and sacrifice your time is when Marines get hurt in combat or missions fail.
MECEP/ECP Marines, comment with your advice for future candidates!