Marines vote JB MDL Airman 'Gung Ho': USAF EC instructor first Airman to graduate Marine PME

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dennis L. Sloan
  • Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Doug Delpha became the first non-Marine to graduate the Enlisted Marine Professional Military Education course Oct. 12 at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

Delpha, 421st Combat Training Squadron contingency skills instructor at the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, immediately realized he was the minority among his 100-plus Marine classmates. While competing against the Marines he found himself leading a group of 21 through a course and culture completely unfamiliar to him.

"I knew going into the course I was on my own-I had to prove myself not only to the cadre, but my Marine classmates as well," said Delpha. "My first sergeant graduated from the Marine Staff Sergeant NCO Academy, so he gave me a few keys to success and an overview of what to expect from our sister service."

Delpha was recommended by his supervisor Tech. Sgt. Sean Scavetta, 421st CTS NCO in charge, Master Sgt. Bryant Roy, USAF EC first sergeant; and Lt. Col. Rhett Boldenow, 421st CTS commander.

"From a professional angle, the sergeants' course content, combined with the skills Delpha teaches at the EC, would make him a more knowledgeable and effective instructor," said Roy. "On a personal level, I see a lot of myself ten years ago in Staff Sergeant Delpha. He's a guy who is a little rough around the edges and doesn't always say the 'right' things, but is passionate about his service and learning how to operate effectively within the military hierarchy. Sergeant Delpha is the kind of guy with 'a whole lot of thrust that needs a vector sometimes.'"

Delpha's regular duty day at the EC consists of training Airmen on land navigation, small unit tactics and Defense Advance Global Positioning Receiver, a device which provides real-time positioning, velocity, navigation and timing information through a handheld receiver. Delpha prepares Airmen to go to any area of responsibility through this training.

As an Air Force contingency skills instructor, Delpha is tasked with making Airmen an asset to the other services downrange. He helps prepare his students for the joint environment.

"From what I learned at the sergeants' course during my time at Quantico, I knew he'd learn skills he could apply in his daily duties, as well as the importance of leadership and followership," said Roy.

The Marine PME course consisted of physical, academic and leadership training. The physical portion required the students to train three to four days a week. Physical training involved running up to 6 miles, running stadium stairs, agility drills and martial arts skills to include: kicking, punching and kneeing to the point of muscle failure.

"The PT the Marines performed was harder than any regular Air Force PT I've ever attended," said Delpha. "The Marines have a saying called 'break you off,' which is where you PT so hard, when you're done, you're unable to do anything else. They also broke runners up into ability groups based on a 3-mile time trial. This was so everyone was challenged at every step of the workout."

The students were also required to fulfill academic requirements, aside from the physical aspect of the course. The academic portion required the students to attend classes and take tests. The classes covered building and understanding Marine FITREPs, which are the equivalent to Air Force Enlisted Performance Reports. The course also included: counseling of junior enlisted servicemembers, rating them and conducting proper PT sessions.

"The instructors were excellent," said Delpha. "The instructors always led by example, arriving to class before us and leaving after us, as well. They were definitely the best the Marine Corps had to offer."

Delpha found himself in the position of squad leader for the leadership portion of the course. He was given the task of leading 21 Marines for seven weeks.

"I learned how to handle situations I'd never dealt with before," said Delpha. "I also learned Marine tactical procedures, which I can now bring back to my unit help teach the Airmen new ways to complete their mission."

Delpha planned an assault on a town during a training exercise which resulted in no friendly casualties and the fastest time of execution among all the squads.

"I was fortunate enough to be afforded 21 Marines who worked incredibly well together," said Delpha. "I had two Marines in particular who helped me successfully complete the course. Sergeant Jared Hanson helped me understand Marine infantry tactical procedures; he served as the first fire-team leader. Sergeant Joshua Watterson assisted me in running the squad and understanding the Marine's culture, which let me effectively interact with them while they were under my charge."

Along with adjusting to the Marines' physical, academic and leadership training, Delpha did his part to change the perception some Marines had of Airmen and the Air Force.

"For many of the Marines, I was the first Air Force individual they had ever worked with," said Delpha. "Some of the Marines I met maintained a school of thought that (Airmen) are fat, have long hair and belong to the 'military corporation of the Air Force.'"

Delpha took it upon himself to change that perception by setting a standard the Marines could respect. He received a superior physical fitness award for his physical fitness test and posted a perfect Combat Fitness Test score. He received a letter of appreciation for being a squad leader. Delpha received a 95.6 out of 100 for the course and graduated 34 out of 107 academically.

Delpha said a highlight of the course was when his peers voted him to receive the Gung Ho Award, the second highest award for the course.

"It was an honor to have earned the Gung Ho Award, especially because my peers had voted on it," said Delpha. "The biggest highlight of the course for me was representing the Air Force in a positive light. The Marines left the course with a better perception and more respect for Airmen."

During his off-duty time, Delpha completed 40 hours of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program earning a green belt.

Not even a month after graduating from the course, Delpha is already working towards his next goal. He plans to apply for Officer Candidate School in the Marine Corps or Army.

"I always wanted to go into the Army, but my father persuaded me to join the Air Force," said Delpha. "I'm glad he did, because the Air Force has given me time to get an education. Other services don't stress education as much. I've gained so much knowledge and experience in the Air Force. I definitely will use it in my future endeavors."

In the four years Delpha has served in the Air Force, he's received such awards as: Airmen of the quarter, professional of the month, Senior Airman Below the Zone, distinguished graduate from Airmen Leadership School and earning the rank of staff sergeant his first time testing.

Delpha deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2009 for four months with the 455th Civil Engineer Squadron. Delpha took it upon himself to volunteer at the Craig Joint-Theater Hospital when he completed his daily duties with the 455th. He helped carry servicemembers, who had been wounded during combat, from the helicopter to the emergency rooms.

Sergeant Delpha is back at the 421st preparing Airmen to go downrange, now he is teaching with a little more understanding of who those Airmen will serve alongside.

"This was a win-win situation for not only Sergeant Delpha, but the Air Force as a whole," said Scavetta. "Sergeant Delpha returned to the 421st an even better Airman than before and changed the perception of the Air Force for more than 100 Marines. The Marine PME course offered Sergeant Delpha an opportunity to learn how the Marines interact and carry out their daily operations. The knowledge Sergeant Delpha received provided him the skills and credibility to better prepare Airmen to go downrange with confidence and competence."

Delpha is the first Airmen to graduate from Marine PME. It is not yet determined if he will be the last.

"I think this course is invaluable, because it provides career broadening and exposure to the joint environment. If leadership approves and recommends another Airman to attend the course, I would fully support the decision," said Scavetta. "It takes a certain kind of person to achieve greatness in an area where they are completely cut off from everything they know. If another Airman comes across my path and possesses the same heart and determination as Delpha, I would not hesitate to put my name on the line for the Airman to attend Marine PME."