SOG Airman graduates USMC Corporal's Course

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
An Airman from the 17th Special Operations Squadron here did something April 30 no other Air Force member has ever done on Okinawa.

Senior Airman Jonnathan Clay, an aviation resource management specialist, became the first Airman ever to graduate from the Corporal's Course at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. He spent three weeks immersed in the U.S. Marine Corps way of life for the Corporal's Course, which is designed to assist in the leadership development of Marines who have been recently promoted to corporal.

The Corporal's Course consists of classroom and practical application introducing students to a wide variety of responsibilities they will face during their time as a corporal. Instructors teach the students how to properly exercise with their Marines, how to guide and mentor their Marines and develop their juniors for success.

"The transition from lance corporal to corporal is one of the hardest to make as a Marine. This transition consists of going from being a follower, to being a leader," said Marine Staff Sgt. Thomas Dillon, the chief instructor for Class 59-10. "Corporal's Course basically provides the new corporal with the tools necessary to succeed in their new responsibilities."

For the Marines, the promotion to corporal carries a promise the Marine will do everything within their power to carry out the assigned missions. The corporal accepts the responsibility to always be ready for any challenge that might arise. The instructors made sure the Corporal's Course was one of their biggest challenges. The classroom hours were long, the homework a burden and the physical challenge gruesome, said Sergeant Dillon.

Senior Airman Clay knew going into the course would be full of challenges because the differences between the services, but he was ready to accept them. He put in extra hours, asked a lot of questions and relied heavily on his classmates.

"If it had not been for my classmates' willingness to help me with certain events, there is no way I would have mastered in every event," he said. "Many were willing to stay after class and help me with events that were foreign to me like the sword manual and radio communication. As an Air Force member, these are tasks we typically do not perform."

The hard work and motivation paid off for Airman Clay. During the graduation ceremony he won the Gung Ho Award for Class 59-10, which is awarded to the member of the class the students vote for who displays the most motivation through the course. Out of a class of 38, Airman Clay received 21 votes, no other student got more than five votes.

"Winning the Gung-Ho award was one of my proudest moments of my career, Airman Clay said. "There was stiff competition. Those Marines motivated and pushed me just as hard as I pushed them. I've won awards before, but to me nominated by my peers as the most motivated person in the class was humbling."

Senior Airman Clay's success at the Corporal's Course was no surprise to his leadership. In his short time at the 17th SOS, Senior Airman Clay excelled as the squadron's Airmen of the Year for 2009 and 353rd SOG's Aviation Resource Management Airmen of the Year for 2009.

"SrA Clay is an outstanding Airman who has never turned down the opportunity to excel and be challenged both professionally and physically," said Tech. Sgt. Andriea Cook, his mentor and former supervisor. "His tireless work ethic and willingness to be a team player reflects in his job performance, community involvement and personal achievements."

Sergeant Dillon also attributed the award to Airman Clay's work ethic and attitude.

"Senior Airman Clay displayed courage in taking this task to come to a Marine Corps Corporal's Course," he said "He came with the attitude of knowing it was going to be extremely tough, and brought a mental focus that allowed him to meet that challenge head on. He came to class everyday with an extremely upbeat attitude, thirsty for knowledge and guidance. He came ready to be developed and molded into a Marine Leader. He accepted and met head on, all challenges this course presented, and accomplished them in stellar performance. He had to do much more than everyone else, yet it never showed. His attitude never changed. Senior Airman Clay not only had to worry about successful completion of the curriculum, but he also had to worry about 37 Marines, all that wondered why he is even here. He mastered the curriculum, and won the respect of the Marines by his side."