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U.S. Marine Corps Col. Kyle B. Shoop, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 12, speaks with newly selected and promoted staff sergeants during a three-day staff sergeant indoctrination seminar at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 15, 2023. This staff sergeant indoctrination seminar, hosted by MAG-12, is designed for newly selected and promoted staff sergeants, and provides a unique educational program that covers spiritual fitness, professional development, nutrition, and other aspects of effective leadership.

Photo by Cpl. Chloe Johnson

Never Stop Learning: MAG-12 Hosts Staff Sergeant Indoctrination Seminar

29 Dec 2023 | Cpl. Chloe Johnson 1st Marine Aircraft Wing

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — U.S. Marine Corps’ newly promoted staff sergeants and selected sergeants attended a staff sergeant indoctrination course hosted by Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 12 that provided leadership advice, tools, and resources to newly promoted and selected Marines at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 15 to 17, 2023.

Approximately 35 selected sergeants and newly promoted staff sergeants from across every squadron at MCAS Iwakuni met in the MAG-12 auditorium to learn about the expectations and responsibilities that are part of promoting into the Staff Noncommissioned Officer (SNCO) ranks. These classes were given by various enlisted leaders, civilians, and officers, to show a wide variety of leadership examples, and the different types of effective leading techniques.

“What I’m hoping for is that the newly selected or promoted staff sergeants leave here with tools they wouldn’t have had if this seminar hadn’t taken place,” said Sgt. Maj. R. Carlos Lopez, the sergeant major of MAG-12. “So that when they do encounter adversity, or leadership dilemmas, they have the tools.”

Instead of using a presentation heavy and rigid Marine Corps classroom approach, leaders spoke to the audience about how their roles as leaders will change using personal experiences and mistakes that they have made themselves. These included informal discussions that ranged from spiritual and physical fitness and the protocol for promotions for SNCOs, to tools for navigating toxic leadership and prohibited activities and conduct.

“I was expecting this seminar to be more of a Marine Corps indoctrination, very rules and regulations driven,” said Sgt. Jerimiah Joseph, a KC-130J fixed wing aircraft mechanic with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152. “But it hasn’t been that at all, it’s been fantastic! Every leader that has gotten up in front of us, rather than just give us ‘this is what you’re supposed to do’ it has been more of - hey, you are SNCOs, you need to watch out for these things and be there for your Marines, these are my mistakes, do better than I did as a staff sergeant.”

Seminars such as this provide the chance for mentorship opportunities with experienced leaders. Col. Kyle Shoop, the commander of MAG-12, Sgt. Maj. Anthony J. Easton, the Sergeant Major of Marine Corps Installations Pacific, and multiple senior enlisted leaders from across MCAS Iwakuni squadrons spoke about their thoughts on leadership and experiences they’ve had while interacting with Marines on how to improve as a senior enlisted leader.

“Having so many leaders come from Okinawa and the different squadrons on base showed the Marines the importance of the transition from sergeant to staff sergeant,” Lopez said. “By getting these leaders in front of them, and them expressing some of the experiences that they’ve had, and how they can keep from making the same mistakes or speaking on the importance of being an impactful and engaged leader.”

The Marine Corps overall operates via decentralized leadership. Commanders through all levels of commands provide intent and small unit leaders conduct their own decentralized planning and execution. The staff sergeant indoctrination course is one of the professional military education pillars for senior sergeants and staff sergeants that empowers them with improved decision making and leadership, while learning the balance of also taking care of the Marines.

Sgt. Anahi MendozaPerez, a technical directive coordinator with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 said, “There were a lot of things, going from the debrief of the staff sergeant board for us to the class on fitness reports that many sergeants don’t get, which is surprising. Now that we’re going to become staff sergeants, it’s our duty to help our Marines to make sure that they are ready and prepared to assume the next rank.”

According to the 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance and the Force Design 2030, the complexity of the modern battlefield and increasing rate of change requires a highly educated force. Education initiatives such as the staff sergeant indoctrination course directly supports the intent and direction of Marine Corps modernization and talent management.

“We never stop learning, we should never stop striving to educate ourselves in all areas that are going to make us more effective leaders,” Lopez said. “That’s through mentorship, it’s through off-duty education, it’s through seminars like these. What I hope that these young SNCOs get out of this is, that we are all scholars of leadership and that we never stop learning. If we have a more educated force, we have a more lethal force; we’re able to accomplish the missions that are coming our way.”