Marine Corps program allows students to earn their stripes early

Instead of studying calculus and history in a classroom, imagine mastering military tactics and leadership techniques at Officer Candidate School for the U.S. Marines. These are just some of the skills two current students and one graduate of the College must acquire as part of the Marine Corps Officer Program.

The Platoon Leaders Class for freshmen, sophomores and juniors at the College and the Officer Candidates Class for college seniors and graduates offer students the opportunity to partake in military training during the summer and eventually become commissioned as Second Lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

Patrick Daly, junior business major, has already completed one of the two six-week summer training sessions as part of the Platoon Leaders Class, while Dan Nardiello, senior technological studies major, has completed both of his training sessions and will be commissioned after he graduates from the College in May.

While thinking about his future, Nardiello said, “I can only imagine when they pin the bars on, the second lieutenant bars, it’s going to be one of the greatest feelings I could ever imagine.”

First Lieutenant Sharon Dubow, a 2000 graduate of Rutgers University who also completed Officer Candidate School and has served in the Marines for four years, agreed on the rewards of participating in the program. It requires no commitment during the school year and allows students time to concentrate on their studies.

“Saying that you made it through 10 weeks or 12 weeks of Marine Corps Officer Candidate training is something to be proud of, and it’s something that you can take with you wherever you go, something that’s going to give you confidence no matter what you do,” Dubow said.

Dave Driscoll, a 2004 graduate of the College who just began his 10-week training in the Officer Candidates Class on Oct. 3, believes that it will present him with opportunities that will be beneficial to his future.

“It offers something that no one else could offer out of college,” Driscoll said. “It’s the opportunity to lead right out of college, and it’s a challenge you’re not going to find anywhere else. And you pick up skills you won’t find anywhere else.”

During the completion of Officer Candidate School, which is held in Quantico, Va. during the summer, students learn rank structure, military tactics and combat skills. There is a heavy emphasis on leadership traits and principles. While they are learning the mental aspects of becoming a Marine officer, they also must go through boot camp training.

“The program definitely gives you experience with leadership,” Daly said. “That’s what being a lieutenant is going to basically be all about.”

In addition to learning leadership skills, the students complete the grueling physical work and experience the extreme intensity associated with becoming an officer in the Marines.

“Basically, it’s a total immersion into the Marine Corps,” Nardiello said. “It’s like the boot camp you see on TV, with all the screaming and yelling. The ‘Why am I doing this?’ sometimes comes up in your head.”

“It’s not for everyone,” Daly agreed.

Driscoll said he recognizes this challenge and is willing to take it on. “I expect to be pushed to the limit, to be tested. I expect to be put through things that I have never experienced before.”

The three students and Dubow agree the advantages gained from the hard work significantly outweigh any momentary doubts.

“It’s a good opportunity to put your life in the right direction,” Daly said. “It can only do good for you. No harm can come out of it.”

Nardiello also recognizes the honor that accompanies completing such training. “It’s a big motivation, to be a part of the elite,” Nardiello said. “You are part of that elite group until the day you die. It’s self pride; it lets you go above and beyond in everything that you do.”

Additionally, the leadership skills the students gain in training extend beyond the bounds of the program. The effectiveness of the training is recognized by businesses around the nation that send representatives to learn the techniques used to train the leaders of the Marine Corps.

As a business major, Daly said he is aware of this benefit. “You definitely know how to deal with people, you know how to get them to listen to you,” he said. “It gives you confidence.”

Nardiello, who wants to pursue teaching in the future, also believes participating in the Platoon Leaders Class has assisted him in the classroom. While in the program, Nardiello was responsible for leading a platoon of 60 people. “Going in front of a class of 15 seventh graders, it’s like, this is nothing,” Nardiello said.

Each of the program’s participants believes the motivation to complete Officer Candidate School comes from within. “A lot of people are like, ‘I’ve got patriotism and I want to give back to my country and be part of the best,’ but then there’s also some kind of intrinsic internal thing,” Nardiello said. “You just want to succeed.”

While the Marine Corps Officer Program may not be for everyone, those who do participate in it receive a very special honor, according to Dubow. “To lead the Marines is a privilege,” he said. “They are the best the country has to offer, and to be able to lead them is a privilege.”