MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
On a crisp Dec. 10 morning, a classroom fills with chatter as Marines discuss the day’s coming lessons. The class first sergeant, sharply dressed in her service uniform, stands at the position of attention at the head of the classroom. Her ribbons perfectly centered and aligned, every crease neatly pressed and her shoes shined so brightly they could be used as a mirror.
“Class, Attention!” she announces with authority. Marines instantly snap to the position of attention with their elbows locked out and hands clenched shut, thumbs along their trouser seams.
Staring straight ahead, she shouts with confidence, “I am an NCO dedicated to training new Marines and influencing the old. I am forever conscious of each Marine under my charge, and by example will inspire him to the highest standards possible. I will strive to be patient, understanding, just and firm.”
The class roars back every word of the Noncommissioned Officer Creed.
Their words fill the classroom and can be heard echoing down the empty hallways.
Among these Marines stands Cpl. Ashton Tyler, warehouse clerk, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. To her, the words she recites at the beginning of every class, and when returning from lunch, remind her of the responsibility she is charged with.
As a newly promoted corporal, Tyler tries to define what it means to be an NCO, the rank of E-4 and E-5, and hopes to find her answer while attending Corporal’s Course.
“I volunteered to come here,” said Tyler, 21, from Charleston, S.C. “I haven’t had an opportunity to lead junior Marines, and I know I will be leading them in our next deployment. I want to do everything possible to make sure I can lead them the right way.”
Corporal’s Course is designed to answer Tyler’s questions. The four week course provides corporals with the education and leadership skills necessary to lead Marines by placing emphasis on leadership foundations and a working knowledge of general military subjects.
“Most of the Marines that come here have a solid base of what it’s like to lead,” said Staff Sgt. David McFadden, faculty advisor, Corporal’s Course Academy. “Our job is to refine those skills so they can return to their units and be well-rounded leaders that mentor the next generation of Marines.”
Tyler’s desire to lead started as a child, when her grandmother taught her about astrological signs.
“My grandma is an Aries, and she always had a plaque on her wall,” Tyler said. “The first thing that plaque said was ‘Natural born leaders.’ So growing up, she would always tell me that I was going to be a leader one day.”
Being the oldest of three siblings, Tyler had no choice but to lead.
“A lot of my leadership style comes from that experience,” Tyler said. “I had to be strict but also empathize with them to get whatever needed to be done. It’s no different than when dealing with Marines.”
After graduating high school, she worked at multiple jobs but quickly found herself unsatisfied and wanting more. Looking to a friend who had enlisted in the Marine Corps for advice, she was convinced this was the answer she was searching for.
“It was mixed emotions, but I knew I would succeed,” Tyler said as she recalled her feeling after enlisting.
Immediately deploying upon checking into the 15th MEU, her abilities were tested as she juggled working jointly with Navy logistics.
“Working with the Navy seemed like a big challenge, but I had great NCOs that taught me everything I needed to know,” Tyler said.
The leadership she received while deployed encouraged her further to be an inspiration to those she would lead in the future.
“The first thing [Cpl. Tyler] said to me after being promoted was, ‘I want to go to Corporal’s Course,’” said Staff Sgt. Clyde Harris, supply chief, 15th MEU. Harris is Tyler’s Staff Noncommissioned Officer. “She’s always eager to learn everything. If she doesn’t know an answer, she finds it.”
Tyler is halfway through her time at Corporal’s Course and says she is grateful for the opportunity to learn from her instructors as well as her peers.
“Working with corporals from all [military occupational specialties] is great,” Tyler said. “I get to see how other Marines handle different situations and I’m getting a lot of ideas on how to handle different situations.”
Although she’s long lost interest in astrology, Tyler still feels as if she embodies what an Aries signifies; a natural born leader eager to apply her new knowledge to the 15th MEU.