WASHINGTON, D.C. --
The Office of the Secretary of Defense hosted 33 civilian leaders from academia, businesses, and corporate America, for the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC) 94, where they gained rare insights on what life is like inside of the Armed Forces, Sept 17-23.
Throughout the week, participants engaged closely with all branches of the United States military—Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. JCOC is designed to educate Americans about the complexities of military service and to foster a deeper understanding of the men and women in uniform.
“Having experienced multiple iterations of JCOC and similar programs, I have observed guests overwhelmed by the capabilities and sheer might of our Armed Forces, but their most resounding takeaway has always been the selflessness and dedication to service displayed by our service members,” said Maj. Tyler Miller, a Reserve Officer from Alexandria, Virginia, serving as the JCOC Marine Corps Team Lead and a community relations officer with Communication Directorate, Headquarters Marine Corps.
"Participants always return home with a renewed sense of pride in not just our Nation’s military, but the generation of Americans who have answered the call to serve." Maj. Tyler Miller, Communication Directorate
Attendees were divided into five teams, each led by a service team lead, and visited strategically selected military installations across the southeastern region of the continental U.S. Each day was meticulously designed by its respective military branch to showcase specialized capabilities, training protocols, mission objectives, joint operations, and technological advancements.
JCOC 94 began at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., where senior military leaders shared the Defense Department's priorities, and discussed national defense matters from a strategic perspective. The program then transitioned to a more hands-on experience with Army Day at Fort Moore, Georgia. Participants engaged in simulated parachute jumps from the 34 Mock Tower and observed live-fire exercises featuring an array of military weapon systems, including tanks and mortars.
The following day, the participants began Marine Corps Day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Here, civilian leaders received an immersive look into Marine recruit training and culture by experiencing firsthand, the training regimen and transformation from a civilian to a Marine.
Just as every new recruit does as they arrive at Parris Island, the civilian leaders stepped off the bus and stood at the infamous yellow footprints as the echoing of orders given by drill instructors filled the atmosphere.
Every element of recruit training is meant to mold and develop each individual into a basically trained Marine. As the day progressed, participants engaged with arguably the most integral part of training, the drill instructors. Amidst meaningful interpersonal conversations with the drill instructors and other Marines assigned to the mission of making Marines, the attendees partook in practical applications to include, the nearly 50-foot-high Rappel Tower, the Basic Warrior Training Day Movement Course, and live-fire exercises at the rifle range.
The skills learned in these activities are the essence of developing a Marine. The purpose of the Rappel Tower is for Marines to build trust and confidence in themselves and one another. The Basic Warrior Training Day Movement Course focuses on tactical movement and teaches recruits the basic combat survival skills crucial for mission success. Furthermore, several weeks of recruit training are dedicated to teaching recruits the basics of marksmanship because “Every Marine is, first and foremost, a rifleman. All other conditions are secondary,” infamous words attributed to the 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Alfred M. Gray.
Marine Corps Recruit Training is 13 weeks of rigorous and demanding training, making Marines who can fight tonight to defend the Nation at home and abroad. Recruit training is a demanding process, but also an exacting one, as this is the training that has developed Marines whom the country has relied on for nearly two-and-a-half centuries. Therefore, during these events, the civilian leaders were especially able to witness how and why recruits learn quickly that what doesn't stop them only makes them more purposeful, and the hardships they overcome together only make them more resilient.
The Marine Corps Day came to an end in the early morning hours, Sept. 20, as the participants loaded the aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, SC, and continued to the follow-on military service installations. The participants left with a new understanding and appreciation for how Marines are made and what it takes to earn the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, an experience most Americans will never witness.
"My time at the JCOC was a profound experience that deepened my appreciation for the selfless dedication and unbreakable bonds forged by our armed forces." David Habib, Founder and CEO of Yo Mama’s Foods
“To the Marines who embody courage, honor, and commitment every day, thank you for teaching us, inspiring us, and protecting America,” said Habib.
“As a civilian, I’ve always seen Marines as a different breed—something I [previously] couldn’t relate to in any way,” said AJ Bleyer, CEO and Directors Guild of America Director, Advent Films. “After a week surrounded by people in uniform, and seeing how all recruits appear when they first join, you realize they truly are “made". Any of us could be a Marine—as long as you’re prepared to push yourself harder than ever before.”
JCOC Participant AJ Bleyer tries the Rappel Tower
Photo by Edward J. Hersom
AJ Bleyer, Director for Advent Films, proceeds down the Rappel Tower while participating in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference-Marine Corps Day at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, Sept. 19, 2023. JCOC is the Department of Defense’s public liaison program, designed to provide American business and community leaders with a deeper understanding of the military by showcasing the rewards and challenges service members face both on and off the battlefield. (Defense Media Activity photo by Edward J. Hersom)
On the fourth day, Navy Day took place at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia, offering insights into submarine warfare and missile systems through tours of the Trident Training Facility. Air Force Day at Hurlburt Field, Florida, followed, focusing on Special Operations, and featuring activities like a mock deployment line, operations demonstration, airborne inserts, and flights via MH47 helicopters. The week concluded with Coast Guard Day at Miami Beach, Florida, providing a comprehensive view of Coast Guard operations, such as search and rescue demonstrations and non-compliant vessel pursuit tactics.
"This was a once-in-a-lifetime, hands-on experience, to connect and spend time with the incredible people that protect and serve our country." Sophia Banks, Founder and CEO of Banks Films
Established in 1948, JCOC is the DoD's oldest and most prestigious public liaison program. It is the only Secretary of Defense-sponsored outreach initiative that offers American business and community leaders a fully immersive experience with the military. Participants are nominated by senior military officials or alumni of the program and are selected based on their influence. This year's cohort includes leaders from academia, financial institutions, the entertainment industry, and professional sports.
JCOC serves as a unique opportunity to better understand the rewards and challenges faced by service members, both on and off the battlefield. The program aims to strengthen the civilian-military relationship by educating participants on the roles and missions of the DoD and informing them about the strength and readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces.
"I wish every American could experience JCOC. You’re left with a profound appreciation for the guardians that have been protecting all of us and an awareness that our armed forces are made up of people like you and I—working together across branches to make the biggest difference they can in their lifetime." AJ Bleyer, Director and CEO, Advent Films
“Each branch is specialized but unified in their mission. It was inspirational and educational; it was a profound honor to be selected, and I look forward to my continued relationship with the DoD,” said Bleyer.
For more information on the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, visit https://www.defense.gov/jcoc. For a collection of news and imagery from previous iterations of JCOC, visit https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/JointCivilianOrientationConference.