Marines train students to be leaders[MIGRATE]

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The Marine Corps’ conducts myriad operations around the globe: combat, humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping, and so on. The Marines have a long and storied history of accomplishing the mission whatever it may be and wherever it may find them; today their mission brings them face-to-face with the communities they live and work in. The office of the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Recruiting Command have created the United States Marine Corps Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy in order to train and develop the young leaders of tomorrow, whether or not their paths lead them toward military service.

“The academy is designed to prepare rising high school juniors and seniors for college by introducing them to Marine Corps leadership skills, ethics, character development, teamwork, and camaraderie,” said Lt. Col. Mitchell Bell, the programs director for SLCDA.

The academy is a one week course, currently held at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., involving a broad curriculum including ethics training, a study of leadership traits and principles, one-on-one and small group discussions, simulated combat ethics training and physical fitness. “It’s truly a diverse course of study,” said Col. Duane Silvestri, commanding officer, SLCDA. “We hope to instill in [these students] a sense of moral character that will last a lifetime, wherever [they] may go.”

This year’s academy consisted of 96 students from 26 different states. They started their week Sunday, July 21, at the National Museum of the Marine Corps where Maj. Gen. Mark A. Brilakis, commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, welcomed and urged the students “to learn all you can” while at the academy.

And learn they did.

“This week was one of the best weeks I've ever had,” said Megan Jack, a student at Edmond North High School, Edmond, Okla. “I can honestly say that this has changed my life for the better!”

Throughout the week Marines, from the Individual Mobile Augmentee program were squad leaders and mentors to the students. As part of the reserves the Marines were equipped to talk about how their military experience had benefitted them in the civilian world, as well as practical life experience in areas such as higher education.

“This program is not specifically geared towards recruiting students, rather it is concerned with giving back to the youth of this country a measure of our collective experience and knowledge,” said Bell. According to him, even if none of these students join the military, but go on to start companies, work for the government or follow any number of successful paths and give some small measure of credit to the Marine Corps, then mission accomplished.

Bell needn’t worry; the mission is not far from accomplished. Students and influencers alike are already singing the praises of the program, even while the Marine Corps assesses the growth and future development of subsequent SLCDAs.

“There are truly an endless amount of words to describe this leadership program. The heroes and inspiring leaders I met here made me understand what the Marine Corps' motto means: ‘Semper Fi,’” said David Chen, an SLCDA student. “I will definitely spread the word about this one-of-a-kind experience.”

While the students go home to spread the word and employ what they have learned, the Marines are already looking to improve the scope and impact of the program.

“We are looking at ways to grow the program to do the most good for the Marine Corps and these students,” said Silvestri.

The academy will be held again next summer, but some of the finer details will change. According to Bell, the curriculum and schedule of events will be tweaked, the location may change, the criteria for attendance may become more selective, and the overall scope of the program may be broadened to ensure a clearer cross section of America is represented. “It’s only going to get better,” said Bell.

Students participating in the Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy performed Marine Corps physical training throughout the week, including a modified combat fitness test.   High school students Zoe Want, Alyson Benoit and Ryan Caldwell participate in a service project at the Quantico National Cemetery, June 26. The three students were participants of the second Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy aboard and around Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., July 21 – 27.   General James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, takes a seat for a picture with the 96 high school students participating in the Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy, July 22. In addition to meeting the Corps’ top Marine, students with the SLCDA had the opportunity to meet the Marines and see the aircraft of HMX-1, the unit responsible for transporting the president of the United States.