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Posted on Dec 9, 2007 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

21st Century Leadership

By Kevin Lee, USMC, ret.

Lance Cpl. Robert J. Steinbrecher points out potential enemy aircraft while Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Kitzmiller views realistic computer generated graphics depicting aircraft in flight on a Stinger Man Portable Air Defense Oct. 18 system while conducting night training at Marine Corps training grounds on Ie Shima island, located 10 kilometers off Okinawa’s northwestern coast. The training was designed to provide a combat scenario to increase their proficiency in securing an airfield during threats in combat. The training was part of the first phase of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s two-phase consolidated field training exercise. Steinbrecher and Kitzmiller are low altitude air defense gunners with 1st Stinger Battery, 1st MAW.
Photo by: Cpl. Jennifer L. Brown.

Leaders should always encourage training and must set the example. They must ensure that each of their Marines completes all (Marine Corps Institute (MCI) courses dealing with their Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) and equipment they operate. After that, leaders should encourage enrollment in correspondence courses from other military services that provide equivalent education and training to Marine Corps MOS’s and all like equipment. Leaders should also consider off-base, non-military education; this could be at nearby colleges, vocational schools or civilian correspondence courses that are generally equivalent to the requirements incorporated in Marine duties. A leader should research all potential possibilities to improve their Marines’ training and is only limited by his imagination. For example, encourage research into the experience of foreign armies who are utilizing the same or similar technology that is used in a Marine unit (e.g. the Israeli Defense Forces have been using highly advanced electronics in their counter-terrorism operations providing a chance to learn from their hard-won experience). Lessons learned by foreign armies that can be transferred to Marine units could be added to the unit’s Standing Operating Procedures (SOP).


Leaders should also bear in mind that they are not indispensable or irreplaceable. If a commander moves on or is incapacitated, another will be assigned to take his place. Therefore, your training focus should be on preparing subordinates to move quickly into more senior positions when exigencies call for it, and the longer range goal of properly training the unit to function smoothly in the event of your absence. The goal of training is to prepare the team to function well in the heat of combat; not to merely provide a personal showcase for a particular leader’s talents.

Military forces throughout history have been challenged with the advent of “new” technology. From the Romans, to American Civil War commanders, to the German creators of Blitzkrieg warfare, commanders have been faced with adapting to evolving technological advancements and shifting battlefield conditions. Those who understood the key role that training and education play in adapting new technology have most often proven to be “masters of the battlefield.” Technology will continue to evolve and the weapons and equipment of warfare are constantly improving. As leaders, we must keep abreast of what is at our disposal and ensure that our Marines are capable of employing it to the greatest degree possible. Just as training is needed for mastering the tactics of war-fighting, the same attitude and initiative must be involved for mastering technological equipment as well. Leaders, this is one of your most important responsibilities.

© Kevin Lee (USMC, retired)

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  1. Hello. I am an old friend of Kevin Lee, the author of the above article. I have had a difficult time finding information on him, and whether he has returned home safely. Please forward my information to him, so that he can touch base if he so chooses. Thanks so much.

    Melissa 312-399-6920

    • Hello Melissa,
      You said that you know me. Where do we know each other from?