Marines Awaiting TrainingPosted on May 15,2023
Article Date 01/06/2023
Using time wisely for professional development
>Col Tiger is an F/A-18 Pilot and the Commanding Officer of Marine Aviation Training Support Group 22 in Corpus Christi, TX.
>>1stLt Grier is a Villanova University graduate and is awaiting jet training in Kingsville, TX.
>>>2ndLt Appel is a Naval Academy graduate and a prior-service Nuclear Electricians Mate. She is awaiting primary flight training in Corpus Christi, TX.
Marines Awaiting Training
In naval aviation, there is a fictional character named Grandpa Pettibone. Borne out of desperation in World War II, this grumpy old codger would impart aviation knowledge to his readers with cartoon drawings and sarcastic humor in a desperate attempt to reduce flying accidents.1 Every naval aviator since 1942 has learned some vital lesson from the cantankerous, pithy, and humorous old Grandpa Pettibone.2
If Gramps saddled up with his cane and book o’ knowledge to tour our training bases, he would probably say, “Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat Devildogs! Why aren’t your Marines awaiting training using this time wisely to further their professional development?”3
Commandant Berger would agree with Gramps. The Commandant’s five priority focus areas include force design, warfighting, education and training, core values, and command and leadership. Our Marines awaiting training focus on all five priority areas, with particular attention directed toward education and training.
From commissioning to winging as a fleet aviator, Marine student pilots can spend two years or more in a Marines Awaiting Training status. As Grandpa Pettibone says and the Commandant directs, this time must be used wisely. Marine Aviation Training Support Group 21 (MATSG-21) in Pensacola and MATSG-22 in Corpus Christi are developing unique, low-cost, low-overhead training events that intellectually develop Marines. Some of these events may also be useful to other commands with large student populations awaiting training.
The Marine Corps is a learning organization.4 Marine Corps Order 1553.4B states individual Marines are responsible for their own learning, and it is incumbent upon commanders to foster a culture of lifelong learning. This intellectual ability is cultivated through “active engagement with the brightest minds and the most challenging material, which forces Marines to contend with their assumptions, perceptions and concepts.”5
To foster a culture of lifelong learning, MATSG-22 executes a syllabus that teaches lieutenants to read critically, write articulate essays on their subject matter, and brief peers on the lessons derived from various works. Distilled from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps War College syllabi, the MATSG syllabus focuses on both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The final module focuses on military aviation history. Each module begins with a war college-produced lecture, available online and taught by resident experts that describe each war in detail. Students then read, write and think critically about lessons from the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war.
The background students receive in reading, writing, and speaking critically about military history will support them throughout their careers. Confidence when briefing aviation operations as a captain, credibility with overseas partners as a major, historically based planning as a lieutenant colonel, and strategic-level depth and insight as a colonel are only some of the positive outcomes our students will achieve with their focus on critical reading, writing, and speaking.
To complement this intensive reading program, MATSG has experimented with critical thought workshops. Instructors and students recently participated in a two-week workshop in a live classroom setting with the Ground Truth Design Company, a private-industry program designed to equip leaders with tools, doctrine, and techniques to think critically and better solve complex problems. The initial results are promising.
Instructors and students were broken into five teams, each with a different problem to address. Using the techniques provided by the instructors, our teams set to work and contacted industry experts, general officers, and even one Congressional Staff who agreed to take our student’s proposal and incorporate their solutions into the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. The success our students achieved exceeded all expectations in many cases. These lessons will serve our students well throughout their careers as they address complex problems in the Indo-Pacific region, Force Design implementation, naval integration, and more.
To complement the intellectual development program, MATSG has implemented a three-tiered system that trains students in the tactical application of their profession.
Our primary tactical training period is called MATSG-22 University, focused strictly on flight training. This week-long course is taught by recent flight school graduates to those awaiting flight training. This course prepares students for the rigors of flight school using books, lectures, chalk-talk, and simulator events. The desired end state of MATSG-22 University is to reduce time-to-train while producing higher quality aviators outside the official period of instruction. As with the intellectual development program, this is a low-cost, low-overhead, repeatable event taught by peers under the supervision of fleet instructors. The course delivery method also demonstrates a transition from the industrial-aged model of learning towards a student-centered, 21st-century learning style supported by Training and Education Command.
Battlefield staff rides, museum visits, and case studies provide the second tier of tactical training evolutions. The Marine Corps Association produces excellent military case studies, ranging from Mogadishu to Guadalcanal to the Chosin Reservoir. Students are selected to lead various case studies, leveraging the Marine Corps Association’s pre-built case studies that describe the historical significance, tactical importance, and strategic implications of each battle. Each package includes detailed maps with the scheme of maneuver and terrain depicted with recommended articles, podcasts, videos, and books that complement the case study. Similar to the critical reading, writing, and speaking from the intellectual development module, students gain experience briefing and leading events among their peers, with guidance and structure provided by the instructor cadre.
The third tier of the tactical training module is Expeditionary Warfare School (EWS). Recently implemented and with direct assistance from the Commandant, Assistant Commandant, and Commanding Generals of Training and Education Command and Training Command, this program will aid students in completing their professional military education requirements while awaiting flight training. This program has enormous potential for newly winged aviators entering the fleet as senior first lieutenants and junior captains who must focus on the tactical employment of their aircraft while expeditiously completing their PME requirements prior to the promotion board. To compensate for each student’s lack of real-world experience in the course, the Expeditionary Warfare School instructor selected senior Marines to augment the class so that students can leverage their experience. This “hybrid” approach to Expeditionary Warfare School will serve aviators and the Marine Corps well.
“We must elevate our standards and deliver a more capable Marine to the FMF, while also incentivizing and expanding MOS-specific development opportunities afforded throughout the Marine’s career.”6 MATSG-22 turned commander’s intent into action and sent students around the country and the world to support individual professional development while simultaneously supporting fleet commanders in accomplishing their mission.
One of the most anticipated events in MATSG’s arsenal to expand career developmental opportunities is the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, held semi-annually at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, in Arizona. Here, students gain an appreciation for graduate-level aviation employment as they observe flight line operations, live ordnance procedures, classified briefs and debriefs, realtime execution from secure facilities, and more. With great support from the MAWTS-1 Commander and his staff, and with proper risk-mitigation measures in place, this evolution is the most sought opportunity among all flight students awaiting training.
Other opportunities for temporary duty exist on a case-by-case basis. For example, a Japanese-speaking Marine flight student recently served as an interpreter for Marine Forces Japan, enhancing joint interoperability between U.S. and Japanese naval forces. MATSG routinely pairs flight students with fleet units who can effectively leverage and employ their unique skills. Fleet units in need of temporary and specific skills are encouraged to contact MATSG-21 and MATSG-22 who can properly vet its 450 students awaiting training to support your mission.
Lastly, MATSG-22 began a monthly program where flight students interact with the Joint Staff J-3 via the Secret video teleconference network. These classified briefings from some of the Pentagon’s resident experts provide valuable insight for young officers interested in European, Middle Eastern, and Asian operations. This interaction sparks students’ intellectual curiosity and provides a frame of reference for the world they are about to enter once they graduate from flight training.
It is important to note the tremendous support MATSG receives from senior leaders, MAWTS-1, the Joint Staff, Marine Aircraft Groups, the Marine Corps Association, and others that assist in mentoring, instructing, employing, empowering, motivating, coaching, and teaching young flight students awaiting training. Their efforts help develop a student’s intellectual curiosity and support critical thinking and builds the bench of future leaders needed to fight and win the Nation’s wars.
The Marine Corps requires leaders at all levels who can achieve intellectual overmatch against our adversaries.7 Names such as Alfred T. Mahan, U.S. Grant, John J. Pershing, George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chester Nimitz, John A. Lejeune, Matthew Ridgeway, O.P. Smith, and Colin Powell are noted for their ability to devise, implement and execute military operations at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. Today’s Marines must learn to do the same. MATSG-22 supports this endeavor with intellectual development exercises, tactical training evolutions, and real-world exposure events within a 21st-century learning construct. Grandpa Pettibone would be proud to know our young leaders are dedicated, disciplined, and focused on professional and intellectual development while awaiting flight training.
1. CAPT Rosario Rausa, “Jumpin’ Josephat! 50 Years of Gramps” Naval Aviation News (Jan–Feb 1993).
4. Gen David H. Berger, Training & Education 2030 (Washington, DC: January 2023).