MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif --
Marines are no strangers to taking on new challenges. When the Squad Leader Development Program was announced, Marines from the 1st Marine Division heeded the message and quickly looked into the program to help further develop themselves as small unit leaders.
The SLDP ensures small unit leaders are provided the tools necessary to operate in more complex, distributed environments. The SLDP creates prioritized tracks for selectees to attend advanced training courses and required professional military education courses without interruption due to deployments, unit training or exercises. The two paths that Marines selected into the program can choose are the operating forces track or the combat instructor track.
The operating forces track leads Marines through advanced training courses that when completed, result in assignment to a new unit preparing to deploy. The combat instructor track results in a shortened tour teaching Marines the various skills they have learned, followed by assignment to a unit preparing to deploy.
Infantry Marines across the division took the opportunity to be a part of the SLDP, driven by their core values and duty to their fellow Marines.
“Being selected for the SLDP has given me a feeling of accomplishment,” said Sgt. Robert P. Navarro, a machinegun section leader for Company G, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “It has given me a confidence boost to become a better squad leader for my Marines.”
This program will help small unit leaders become better squad leaders for their Marines, said Cpl. Aronros A. Olano, a squad leader for Company F, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and selectee for the program.
Marines who have been selected know the honor they have been given and are humbled by the opportunity.
To the Marines, it is considered an honor due to the keen competition to be selected to one of the earned quotas, said Cpl. George Sanchez-Robledo, a squad leader for Company E, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
“I don’t care about the awards or medals,” said Sanchez-Robledo, who is slated for the operating forces track and will be sent to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, after schooling in order to deploy. “I do this for future Marines because if we find ourselves in another war we need to be prepared.”
Ultimately, each Marine was inspired to pave the road of self-improvement in the infantry community and the opportunity to better serve the Marine Corps.
His love for the Marine Corps and the support from his family pushed him to take the reins of his career and become a better squad leader for his Marines, said Sanchez-Robledo.
“I read about it in a [newspaper] and applied because it will help me become a better product of a squad leader,” said Navarro, who is slated to follow the combat instructor track. In this track, he will go to the School of Infantry-West to train the upcoming generations of infantry Marines.
Marines also see the program as a way to stay ahead of their peers and stay competitive for their next promotions.
This chance at higher education will give me an edge against my peers, said Cpl. John Benavides Jr., squad leader for Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines.
“The opportunity to further my career progression ahead of my colleagues will help me attain my ultimate goal of becoming a Sergeant Major one day,” said Olano, who is slated to follow the operating forces track.
The 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. said, “Small unit leaders are the backbone of our organization. The Marine Corps is committed to build upon our success in leader development and professional military education.”
Whether it’s for the love of the Marine Corps or duty to their Marines, small unit leaders across the 1st Marine Division follow their core values and have been given the opportunity to take charge of their career paths.