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Making the Grade at MAG-13: How MAG-University Will Better Equip Marines Into the Future

16 Jan 2014 | Cpl. Uriel Avendano Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." - Benjamin Franklin

As part of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s “Committed and Engaged Leadership” initiative, Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., based Marine Aircraft Group 13 has instituted a curriculum of courses designed to provide professional and life skills to all non-commissioned officers and below.


Known formally as MAG University, the program is designed to supplement existing training with a more direct approach to necessary skills needed for professional and personal success.


“This came about as a result of the CG [Commanding General] of 3rd MAW’s ‘Committed and Engaged Leadership’ discussions with commanders – identifying and addressing the gap in the educating of our young Marines,” said Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Archambault, the MAG-13 sergeant major. “What are life skills other than the culmination of knowledge and making sound, responsible decisions?  Ethics and responsible choices, that’s what this is about.”


Broken down into four separate rank-specific modules, the periods of instruction last two  to three days and include classes tailor-made for developing successful citizen Marines.


“We all get the standard don’t drink and drive class, the don’t do drugs class and all that – what we want to do here at MAG University is talk about why we get those classes and why they’re important,” explained Col. Chris McPhillips, the MAG-13 commanding officer and a native of Redwood City, Calif. “In these MAG-U courses, we want to have very frank, in-your-face discussions on these and other important issues. It’s going to be blunt and to the point.”


The upfront seminars are focused on increasing effective responsibility while molding the appropriate behaviors expected of each individual. The private to private first class module serves as a crash course reception on the basics of life in the fleet – how to navigate Marine Online and the e-Marine network, the importance of accountability, an overall unit brief, financial planning and budgeting are all covered with the hope of better preparing young incoming Marines for what’s expected of them.


Classes for married couples are also at the ready, and spouses are encouraged to attend. Stress management, alcohol awareness and an overview of pertinent Corps-wide information are provided to keep spouses better informed on where they can find helpful military family resources and services.


“This is an all-encompassing culmination period of instruction where someone is getting in front of these Marines and teaching them the skills they need,” added Archambault, a native of Banning, Calif. “We’re going to go over how they can help their newer Marines acclimate to Marine Corps life.”


In the spirit of the old adage that knowledge is power, MAG-13 is looking to curtail the lapses in judgment that all too often lead to negative outcomes for Marines. Through these classes, Marines will be led through guided discussions outlining the practical skills necessary to the responsibilities and expectations of the rank on their collar.


“For example, when you become a corporal, we’re going to give you a class called ‘Four Lenses’,” said McPhillips. “That’s a class that will tell you what kind of personality you are. The thought behind that is if you know who you are, you’re better able to interact and relate to not only your subordinates, but your leadership.”


To provoke thought and instill a relatable sense of authority to the topics at hand, instructors are made up of senior Marines within MAG-13 units. Subject matter experts in different fields are also brought in, through Marine Corps Community Services, to provide the most specific and helpful information possible.


Every course will also have a sergeant major or above in attendance, to serve as a buffer or moderator; their presence is intended to help fill in any questions or provide some on-the-spot mentorship the class may need.


“We want their feedback as to how we’re doing as a command. We’re going to talk to them about that. We’re going to talk about ownership – in the sense that I don’t own this MAG; the Marines in it do,” said McPhillips. “It’s their MAG and we want to know how we’re doing in terms of leadership. So we talk frankly about it. If there’s a dumb order out there that doesn’t make sense, this will be their opportunity to bring those issues up.”

The MAG-U initiative is a two-way candid, direct, no-nonsense approach to furthering the education, ethics and personal futures of each individual MAG-13 Marine.

"For me, the most informative class was L.I.N.K.S. (Lifestyle Insights Network Knowledge Skills) because it gave me the numbers and information to contact people in case I have to deal with certain problems," said Cpl. Dong M. Shin, a flight equipment technician with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. "Overall, it was pretty good. It gave me an insight to what I should become as an NCO."


Empowering the individual Marine to make the right choice at the ground level lends itself to the spirit of strengthening each link in a Corps-wide chain of the world’s premier fighting force. For MAG-13, that mindset will be enhanced at MAG-U through engaged, committed and straight-forward education for all.

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