By 2nd Lt. John Peacock ’17, U.S. Marine Corps
As a military, we can summarize our accomplishments, lessons learned, and, most importantly, our developments, both technically and tactically, throughout our history of conflicts.
Today though, we are faced with some of our most proficient, dynamic enemies that we’ve ever graced the battlefield with, and even that battlefield has been characterized by constant change, whether it be on the ground, sea, in the air, space, or now cyberspace.
Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, once stated, “For the first time since the end of the Soviet Union, the United States is facing a near-peer threat, and that is unsettling to many in the services.”
For the first time in our lives, we need to be prepared to fight an enemy who is better outfitted than us and is more capable than us.
So what does this mean for us, the future military leaders of the greatest military in the world? This means we have some work to do. We need to improve technically and tactically at our jobs, learn to operate effectively in a joint environment, and develop ourselves ethically as sound leaders of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
Bettering ourselves both technically and tactically is the easy part of that equation. The difficulty is bettering ourselves as ethical military leaders and operating in a joint environment. This is where our shared experience in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets (VTCC) plays a vital role in our development as a leader.
As cadets in the VTCC, our day-to-day interactions with other cadets are an example of working effectively in a joint-service environment. The VTCC teaches us to understand the customs, courtesies, and traditions of the other branches; respect those values; and then realize we can use those relationships to build a better working environment in which each part of the whole is able to use its strengths to its advantage on the battlefield.
I was a cadre sergeant in Delta Company. We had two Army cadets, two Navy Cadets, one Marine cadet, and three Citizen-Leader Track cadets on our staff. We were able to train and indoctrinate freshman cadets into the VTCC with each cadre member having different experiences and training that made us valuable in different ways and stronger because of it.
During our time in the Corps, we are also immersed in experiences and opportunities that develop us as ethical leaders, as well. We participate in Corps Lab, where we use case studies to delve into the realm of strategic, operational, and tactical level leadership. We host Gunfighter Panels, where alumni return to share their experiences and how the Corps prepared them to be the leaders that we need today. We also have the Cutchins Lecture Series, where we have the opportunity to learn lessons of leadership and methods for success from various prominent figures in our nation.
The most important experience the VTCC gives us and develops in us is the opportunity to lead our peers. Leading peers is one of the most difficult tasks we face in the VTCC, but it is also one where we can hone our leadership characteristics, make mistakes, and correct them, moving forward as a stronger, more ethical leader because we were given the opportunity to lead.
These experiences will help guide us especially as junior officers and young professionals.
Our future conflicts will test us as leaders, more than we’ve ever been tested before and in the most dynamic environment that our military has ever found itself in.
We, as the leaders, may not always know what the exact right answer is either. But through our training and time spent learning leadership in the Corps, we will know what right and wrong look like, and we will have the confidence to make the right decision. We will also be fighting a tougher enemy than ever before, and it will be on us to outsmart them and defeat them, wherever the threat may be.
America’s sons and daughters need strong, ethical, educated, and proficient leaders to take them into the deepest valleys in the shadow of death and win. Will you be ready?
2nd Lt. John Peacock is a graduate of the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in Quantico, Virginia, and of the Marine Corps Basic Officers Course at The Basic School. He is currently stationed at Naval Air Station Pensacola, training to become an aviator for the Marine Corps.