Instilling core values: Coast Guard team visits Depot, learns from Marine DIs

by Cpl. Heather Osorio, USMC

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. – A team from the Coast Guard Training Center in Cape May, N.J., was here this week to review recruit training procedures, and to see where they can make changes in their own recruit training program.

“The training center command visited all four recruit training centers to get a feel for where we are at in comparison to other services,” said Coast Guard Master Chief Steve Dykema, a battalion commander at the Coast Guard Training Center.

The Guard picked and chose the things they wanted to see to help develope their new program, he said. Dykema’s role in Coast Guard training is similar to the role of the Recruit Training Regiment sergeant major.

To meet this need, the command assembled four teams to assess different aspects of recruit training.

“We need to do a review of our program,” Dykema said. “We have changed substantially over the better part of 20 years.”

Dykema’s team, which consists of Coast Guard company commanders, the equivalent to Marine drill instructors, is responsible for re-evaluating the moral aspect of training. The other three teams, which are not on Parris Island for this visit, are covering physical training, academics and the culminating event of training.

During the command’s review of various Armed Forces training, the Corps stood out as the top for value-based training, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Zarella Butler, a company commander.

“The command went to all the other services, and they felt this is what we are looking for as far as discipline and leadership,” Butler said. “(With our training) we are almost there. We just need a little push to make us better.”

“It’s important that they are recognizing our value-based training,” said Gunnery Sgt. David Labonte, one of the escorts for the group and a series gunnery sergeant for Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion.

The team wasn’t just impressed with the way recruits learn values, but also the fact those instilled values stay with Marines throughout their careers.

“You teach Marines to make ethical decisions on and off duty,” Dykema said. “The recruits are here to be recruits and to learn how to be Marines. But, at the same time, they understand the importance of values.”

The team is getting a glimpse of all the different aspects of Marine Corps recruit training. A few members were embedded into a platoon for a few days to see first-hand what recruits experience during the day-to-day routine.

“This is a peer-to-peer opportunity to understand how the Marine Corps is able to execute the program,” Dykema said.

While the team members still have a long way to go before the new program is complete, they said they are looking forward to the challenges and to the new changes that will come out of this. However, the real winners will be the Coast Guard recruits who will benefit from a little bit of Marine Corps training.

“Whenever you talk to any Marine, even if they got out or are retired, they always have that in their heart,” Butler said. “We want ours to have the same thing – to have that passion in their hearts, too.”

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