Military stories from past to present, both wars.

“Where do we get such men?” SLCDA 2013

August 4th, 2013 Posted in Military

“Where do we get such men?” Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy (SLCDA)

This famous line from the old movie “Bridges of Toko-Ri” embodies a powerful message in the context of why the Military helps form such strong bonds that you would be willing to sacrifice yourself for your buddy.  That of course was in the 50’s depicting the Korean War.

In more modern times, it would say “Where do we get such men and women?”  The answer to that question was revealed to me this past week at Quantico, Virginia when 96 High School students from 26 different states around the country, attended our Summer Leadership and Character Development Academy (SLCDA).


I sometimes question as a parent, where we are headed as a nation.  As you watch the nightly news or hear your student talk about things going on at school, does it not make you wonder what can be done to help fix the holes in the crumbling dyke?

The Marine Corps has its share of faults, but one thing it does right is produce leaders.  From the lowest Enlisted Marine to the highest General, we instill our Corps values into each and every person, Honor, Courage and Commitment.

Over the years, friends have asked me what makes a Marine different from the other branches.  I reply “how many of those round stickers with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor that says “US Marine Corps” do you see on any given day driving down the road?  I challenge you to count them one day and it would seem that the smallest branch of the Military has the most members.  It’s because we brand those three words into the heart of every recruit who goes through training.  We belong to the best band of brothers anyone could dream of and you’ll find that most folks who have served in the Corps may have only completed one tour but it’s a brand for life.”

So, while we are awesome on the battlefield, our Commandant has tasked the Marine Corps to teach our values to the local community.  We call this “Connect with America” and “Community Outreach” where we share our values and traits in hopes that a student will take this back to their school and is a better person down the road for it.


General Amos receiving a thank you from Mark Tisler on behalf of the entire SLCDA who signed the left side of the award.

We aren’t looking for future officers in the Military either, but for a student who attends SLCDA and one day as CEO of Apple discusses about the lessons they imparted from our course.

We put a program together that lasted seven days aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico and staffed by 31 Reserve Marines.  Let me reiterate that… Reserve Marines.  Our Cadre consisted of all ranks from Sgt to Colonel and spanned all MOS’s (military job specialties) and a also covered the entire gambit from F.B.I. and Secret Service agents, bankers, businessmen, pilots, small business owners, salesmen, firemen, EMT’s and Public Affairs.  That is a small taste of what our Marines do Monday through Friday if they aren’t putting on their uniform to relax around fellow Marines.  They were absolutely the best I have ever worked with, bar none.

Our program tenants are based on Ethics, Character Development and Leadership training.   Every class, every guest speaker was put together in such a way to ensure these students were constantly exposed in different ways to the same message.

We started the week out with the Commandant of the Marine Corps who took 20 minutes out of his incredibly busy schedule to talk to our group about his vision of where they should go down the road.  He wants leaders who will excel in the business world and all sectors of life.


Next we had the Travis Manion Foundation speak on “If not me, then who?” a powerful message about being the person to make things happen.  This was based on Travis, a Marine officer who was killed on his second tour of duty in the war.  Someone asked him why he volunteered to leave again when he didn’t have to.  His reply “If not me then who” and that reflects who we are as Marines, duty bound.


Col Barney Barnum, a Medal of Honor Recipient spoke to the class about character and the battle in Vietnam that changed his life.  He was only in country five days when he was wounded twice in an ambush that left him head of a Marine Rifle Company. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on December 18, 1965 — for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty”


Col Harvey “Barney” Barnum, explaining to the kids what courage and character means.

That night we had a Skype VTC with Casey Heynis from Australia.  Here was a young man bullied through his most important school years and has started a campaign to counter bullies everywhere.   I am hoping that our kids will have the courage and guts to make a stand against this at school when they return.  Be the champion for the weak and role models for others to emulate.


Casey Heynis from an interview in Australia

The Holocaust Museum while horrific and sad at the same time, ties into that theme of “if not me, then who?” and having the courage to stand up against bullies.  What if a General had stood up in front of Hitler and pointed out that it wasn’t right to kill the Jews? That act of courage alone may have helped the other Generals to agree and possibly talking him out of it.  Of course, they didn’t and we lost over 6 million Jews during those years.  We want our kids to be the ones to stand up and say “Stop, this isn’t right!”

To demonstrate these things we have been discussing, we spent a day at The Basic School, where the students were put into stressful real life situations and they had to make a life or death decisions.  They were critiqued after each challenge and I think they realized what our young Marines face every day in Afghanistan or any number of countries that we send relief to.


Next we moved into our college/life prep agenda.

Joe Shusko, a retired Marine LtCol and former HMX-1 pilot gave a talk on “tie in’s for life” and how to motivate yourself and your friends to accomplish anything you desire in life.  Here is a man, over 60 years old who still runs five and half minute miles every day.  He is what every Marine dreams of being and if I could be just a 1/10th of the man he is, then I will have led an honorable and fulfilling life.


LtCol Joe Shusko from the Marine Raider ’09 reunion

I was able to give my extreme goal setting lecture to the students that discussed and showed them where they are now and working backwards from a dream job, build a solid road map to ensure they achieve their goals in life.


“Taco” Bell in Iraq and guest speaker on extreme goal setting.

Mrs. Laura Lacey spoke to the kids about service projects and how to come up with the ideas from inception to funding and finally execution.  This is her specialty and only a few lucky students are able to take this class every year in the Stafford High School.   Her amazing presentation that night was eclipsed by her talk the next day as we worked on graves at Quantico National Cemetery as our service project.  See, not only is she a service project specialist, but a noted Marine Corps Historian as well.

from the

from’s interview of Laura Lacey

The conclusion to our speaker panel ended with a movie called “Taking Chance” about a Marine Corps Officer named LtCol Mike Stobl who escorted a young fallen Marine home to Wyoming.  After working on the headstones in the cemetery, we stressed how we pay our respects to our fallen.  Following the movie, the real Mike Stobl (not Kevin Bacon) walked down to the front of class and discussed his journey with Chance and the profound changes it had on his life.

LtCol Mike Strobl on set with Kevin Bacon during the shooting of "Taking Chance"

LtCol Mike Strobl on set with Kevin Bacon during the shooting of “Taking Chance”

All in all, this was a great week with Physical training challenges, Character development, Ethics and Leadership.  We concluded with a top notch graduation put on by 2ndLt Valle (a former Gunny) which highlighted the transformation of 96 students throughout the week.

IMG_2084 IMG_2075 IMG_2092

I thank all the staff reading this, because this endeavor would have failed without your professional and caring support. Here is a shot of our 2013  Staff during the Tuesday evening Sunset parade.

2013 staff


I also want to thank the parents who allowed us to divest some of the Marine Corps traits and values to your students.  Please excuse them when they answer every question with a “Yes Sir/Ma’am” or “OOOhhhh RRRRRRhhhhaaaaa,” as it helped form the bonds with new friends that will hopefully last forever.

Semper Fi,

LtCol Bell


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