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Amanda M. Penner, a student of the strategic studies program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is taught how to properly hold an FIM-92A Stinger weapon system by a 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion Marine at the weapons and tactics instructor course at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., April 16.

Photo by Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso

Johns Hopkins University students link academics with Marine experience

28 Apr 2011 | Cpl. Samuel A. Nasso

Twenty-five students studying at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies attended a three-day trip to the weapons and tactics instructor course at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., April 15-17 to condition their strategic perspective with Marine Corps knowledge and experience.

The purpose of the students’ trip was to have the opportunity to better understand the intricacies of the Marine Corps and to give them a more thorough understanding of the capabilities of the command and control aspect of the military.

“I (and all my classmates on the trip) are in the strategic studies program at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies,” said Laura G. Brent, 24-year-old SAIS student who previously studied history and literature at Harvard University. “The program’s focus is the relationship between politics and military power (very broadly defined). While many of us have worked on national security issues before coming to SAIS, the majority of the program – and everyone on the trip – has no military background. This trip was a unique opportunity to interact personally with what is usually addressed only academically.”

SAIS is truly an international institution with campuses in Washington, D.C.; Bologna, Italy; and Nanjing, China; that draws students from throughout the world. The school’s graduates work in numerous public, private, multisector and nonprofit agencies and organizations in more than 140 countries, added Col. Richard T. Bew or simply ‘Otter,’ a member of the Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellowship Program at the University of Johns Hopkins.

Upon arriving to Yuma in a KC-130J Hercules, the students had an idea about what to expect but it wasn’t until they became embedded with the Marines that they gained a whole new experience and understanding.

The students did everything from flying on various aircraft, to include the MV-22 Osprey, to firing howitzers to living in the field, which allowed the students to experience what a deployed environment is like. Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1, Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, and Marine Air Control Squadron 2 were among many units that showed the students what day-to-day operations entail, which provided the students with a sufficient overview of overall Marine Corps operations.

“This trip is the missing link for students who spend hours in the classroom without a perspective of what it is like in the field,” said Amanda M. Penner, 23-year-old SAIS student who previously studied political science at the University of Central Florida. “Yuma allowed us to directly apply the knowledge we’ve gained in classes such as counterinsurgency, net assessment, strategy and policy, and defense analysis. We learned how each unit utilizes different technologies, the importance of chain of command, and how distinct yet integrated jobs of each Marine contribute to the greater mission of the Corps.”

One of the main aspects the Marines wanted the students to comprehend was the mission and capabilities of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The weapons and tactics instructors course is a biannual training evolution held in the spring and in the fall. It is the training that allows the MAGTF elements of the Marine Corps to train in scenarios that enhance Marines’ abilities and hone their skills.

“The trip went incredibly well,” said Penner. “With a busy schedule we were able to see so many aspects of the Marine Corps that the majority of Americans do not see. Not only was this trip an informative experience for the students, we had an absolute blast.”

As the trip came to an end, the students relished their last opportunity to experience what many Americans will never feel. The students were divided into teams with 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion and prepared for a mounted vehicle patrol. The teams of four were briefed by the patrol leader and watched and took notes as the mission was briefed using a terrain model.

The Marines and students jumped into the humvees, and the patrol began. Many of the students volunteered to sit and man the turret to see what it’s like and in retrospect realized the reality and dangers that Marines experience daily.

“When I was in the turret, the team leader hit the unprotected area between the gunner shield and the back of the turret and said, ‘How safe do you feel right now?’” said Brent. “While I still can’t imagine what it is truly like to patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan, I feel that this allowed me a glimpse into what sending ground forces into a country really means.”


Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point