MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Three officers from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office in Canton, Ga., toured Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island and the Air Station’s Corporals School May 17-18.
The officers made the five-hour journey from Georgia to gather information and observe Marine Corps leadership training in hopes of building a new leadership training program for their police officers, according to Lt. Charles A. McMahan, the commander for Hickory Flat precinct.
“We were tasked with creating a leadership development course for our corporals and sergeants and their supervision at the front line,” McMahan said. “We felt like the Marine Corps does an outstanding job, so we came to them for materials and insight.”
Cherokee County implemented a multi-agency, high-liability training program in 1996 that has been successful, however now they would like to expand beyond the core courses and focus more on leadership, according to Lt. Dolly McMahan, a training officer for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve taught our supervisors, which for us are corporals and sergeants, to be administrators,” Dolly said. “We failed them along the way, because we never introduced them to the core aspects of effective leadership, and it’s now become grossly apparent and we have to correct that.”
A lack of effective leadership is a big problem throughout law enforcement, according to Lt. J.C. Easterwood, a training officer for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.
“(Our corporals and sergeants) are great administrators and supervisors,” Easterwood said. “But, they don’t necessarily lead and that’s the position they’re in. They’re in leadership positions.”
Sitting down and discussing the creation of a leadership course led the officers to consider whether leadership is an inherent ability or if it can be taught, according to Dolly.
“To be a truly effective leader may not be a birthright,” Dolly said. “It goes back to how you were raised. Some people may be more effective than others. But, we can identify effective traits and if it’s not inherent, it can be learned.”
They looked for answers from the Marine Corps after reviewing materials available from all branches of the Armed Forces.
“Interestingly, they’re all about the same as far as material goes,” Easterwood said. “But, the Marines are more effective in making theory a practice.”
The Marine Corps approach was the best choice to model a training program after, because of the Marine mentality that sets them apart from other services, according to McMahan.
“The difference for me, in my opinion, is the esprit de corps that you don’t necessarily see in other branches of the service,” McMahan said. “I think what we need to do is copy that and build some form of ‘esprit de corps,’ and through that is how you would motivate leaders to stand up and lead.”
From their observations aboard Parris Island and the Air Station, the group was impressed by the level of personal commitment displayed by instructors in the recruit training and Marine Corps environment, according to Dolly.
“We’ve been trainers and supervisors for years,” Dolly said. “An effective instructor can teach anybody. We should give them what they need to succeed. If we can increase the level of commitment, we can increase the level of competency.”
After visiting the Depot and Fightertown, the group was able to arm themselves with a new plan of attack in leadership training.
“We’ve been impressed with a lot of great ideas and great material here,” Dolly said. “And we very much appreciate the cooperation we’ve received. The Marines have just been unbelievably accommodating.”