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Gunnery Sgt. Lawrence Smith, a faculty advisor at the Marine Corps Base Quantico Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy, leads a guided discussion during a Career Course classroom session at MCB Quantico, Virginia, Mar. 8, 2017. Enlisted Marines come to Quantico in order to be qualified and teach as a faculty advisor, a role that helps facilitate hundreds of Marines a year in their resident professional military education.

Photo by Sgt. Terence Brady

Faculty advisors develop future senior leaders

14 Mar 2017 | Sgt. Terry Brady The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Marines across the Corps accumulate an overwhelming amount of knowledge and experience as they continue their career. Eventually, they are expected to set up their Marines for success by sharing that knowledge. 

At the Staff Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Marines are taught new and inventive ways to lead through their faculty advisors. Faculty advisors are Marines who have proven to be top tier in their respective jobs. 

“As a faculty advisor you are molding [and] mentoring the future enlisted leaders of the Marine Corps,” said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Thompson, a faculty advisor and staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Career Course. “You facilitate lessons for them as well as all the small group contributions they do where they come up in a small group setting discussing leadership dilemmas or topics. 

“It goes beyond that with the curriculum. Marines have professional questions about how they address certain things in their career as far as master brief sheets and fitness reports go, how to get certain things corrected and we’re there to guide them in that process.”

According to Thompson, senior leaders who are looking to become faculty advisors have to be interviewed at their respective local academies by the deputy director along with academics chiefs.

“Once that interview is done, you’ll get orders to check into the academy, and then you check into the faculty advisor’s course,” said Thompson. “Once you’ve graduated that course, you’ve learned to facilitate lessons. From that point, it’s just learning the curriculum for each course and understanding the learning objectives and the educational outcome.”

The faculty advisor’s role is not job specific, advisors at the academy will be expected to teach standard curriculum used for enlisted professional military education, according to Master Sgt. Rodney Hansen, a faculty advisor for the Career Course at the academy.

“We’re looking for those people who want to be here that are willing to go above and beyond to find out how to inspire, mentor and teach younger Marines,” said Hansen. “Sometimes it’s their own peer group [and] they need to be willing to educate themselves and teach others. You have to [be willing] to go outside the box.”

Marines who become faculty advisors develop their professional experience by influencing Marines of many different ranks, according to Sgt. Maj. Gary Bass, the director of the Academy at Quantico.

“Faculty advisors get to put their thumb print on the Marine Corps,” according to Bass. “They find their job to be very rewarding and we’ve had advisors that had students come here at one rank and during their time here they got promoted and came back again for the next course, so they remembered them and continued to mentor them.”

Because of the demanding expectations of the faculty advisor role, Marines who take the position are poised to promote to the next rank, according to Thompson.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had plenty of Marines that have gone on boards for a number of ranks,” said Thompson. “The promotion rate is extremely high for us across all academies and based off the results alone, I would say that it makes you very competitive.”

Thompson added that mentoring Marines across different specialties in the Marine Corps is one of the most impactful contributions you could give to younger generations.

“This has really been the highlight of my career,” said Thompson. “As a gunnery sergeant, to be able to mold, mentor, and put your impression of leadership and the way things should be done in the Marine Corps and give them that perspective is a unique situation.”

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