Welcome to the 6th and final week of Platoon Leaders Course. Your candidate has spent the last 5 weeks overcoming many battles and proving that they have what it takes to lead Marines. Though they only have one week left, there is still much to do before you see them at their graduation ceremony at the end of the week.
To kick off graduation week, candidates will take a swim qualification. The Marine Corps is traditionally known as the world’s premier amphibious assault force. Marines around the world constantly find themselves deployed to sea or traveling via ship or small craft at some point in their careers. This fact is why the Marine Corps is so invested in ensuring that every one of their men and women are proficiently trained in water survival prior to joining their parent units.
Before the day is over, candidates will take part in the Medal of Honor run. Five miles in duration, this run motivates the candidates along a course containing the citations for 16 Medal of Honor recipients. The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest award for military valor in action. The Medal is authorized for any military service member who “distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their life above and beyond the call of duty; while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.”
Next, your candidate will begin to turn in their gear. They’ll need to clean it and ensure that they return it in the same condition they received it. Once all their gear has been turned in they will run through the Montford Point challenge. The purpose of the Montford Point Challenge is to celebrate the sacrifices and heroism of the Montford Point Marines. They were the first African Americans to enlist in the United States Marine Corps. These Marines attend recruit training at Montford Point in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The Montford Point Marines served in combat during World War II, and played a huge role in the seizure of Okinawa. The Montford Point Challenge is a 3 mile obstacle course that is designed to simulate the physical demands the Montford Point Marines went through during their time in service. The first obstacles faced require candidates to commando crawl, high crawl under barbed wire and maintain their balance while running across elevated logs. Next, they’ll carry ammo cans up and down hills and through knee deep swampy waters. Throughout the rest of the course, candidates will have to work together as a team to carry heavy weighted objects through the tough terrain, reinforcing teamwork and completing the mission that they are tasked with.
Later in the day they will take a visit just outside of base to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. The museum is a lasting tribute to U.S. Marines–past, present, and future. I highly recommend visiting the museum with your new Marine after graduation.
Before candidates can celebrate the end of training, they’ll need to complete one last course – the Tarzan and Confidence Course. These two courses are designed to instill confidence in candidates, especially when it comes to overcoming fears of heights. For most candidates, these two courses are fairly fun, with one course ending with a Zip Line.
Once they have gone through the course, the only thing required of them will be to prepare for Family Day and Graduation. Before you see your candidate on Family Day, they’ll run through a practice graduation ceremony, and then Family Day will begin.
The motivational run will be the first opportunity to see your candidate, that is if you can still recognize them. At this stage of training all of the candidates look similar to each other. If you miss your candidate running by the first time, don’t worry, they’ll run back the same way and pass you once more, have the camera ready!
The week will come to an end with the graduation ceremony. The graduation ceremony will be held outside rain or shine on the famous parade deck, Brown Field. The graduation ceremony recognizes all candidates who met the required challenge and successfully completed the demanding 6-week curriculum. These candidates are ready (and very eager) to take their next step in becoming leaders of Marines. They will demonstrate their close-order drill with an impressive pass and review. After the ceremony your candidate will be released, and will be officially commissioned as an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Your Marine has accomplished a lot over the last two summers, and you should be proud of their achievements. Don’t worry, the week will go by quickly, and you’ll be seeing your new Marine in no time! For those headed to graduation, safe travels. I wish your Marine the best of luck throughout their career in the Marine Corps!
Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Paul Davis