Marine Corps Base Quantico. VA --
Master Gunnery Sgt. Melvin Venable is an ordnance vehicle maintenance chief assigned to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. He is currently enrolled in the Martial Arts Instructor Trainer (MAIT) Course 2-17 at the Martial Arts Center of Excellence (MACE). I sat down with him recently to discuss his experience within the course.
I asked Venable what the difference between a competitive fighter and an ethical warrior is. He said, “The competitive fighter fights for personal gain, be it for money or glory. They hone their skills only until they are no longer able to profit from them. The ethical warrior is a different being. They learn and fight for the sake of others and understand there is a greater being outside of them. The purpose of the MACE is to instill this ethical warrior mindset into Marines. Regardless of rank, age, or abilities, the eternal student is someone who will continue to strive to improve mentally, physically and morally.”
Venable has 25 years of service to the United States Marine Corps and said he just decided it was time to go through this mentally and physically challenging course to become an instructor trainer. When asked why he waited 25 years to attend the course, he said, “I always wanted to, but I wanted to wait.” He brought up that some Marines choose to attend the MAIT course partly to help with promotion, but he wanted to go when he reached the rank of E-9. “Now, this does not really affect my promotion. I’m here to learn and use this to teach my Marines,” he said.
The Marines who attend this course are pushed to their mental and physical limits by the staff in order to shape them into strong, ethical warriors. Personally, Venable said, the biggest challenge he has faced in the course was the Leadership Room drill. “I felt like I was out of shape and that the room was defeating me,” he said. However he leaned on his mental strength to push through, telling himself, “You can get through this.”
In the six weeks Venable has been at the MACE, he has formed positive impressions of the staff and his fellow students. “The staff is great and a good mix. They are humble and respectful to the students,” he said. When asked if his fellow students give him a hard time, he laughed, saying, “Yeah, they call me old man and that sort of thing, but I tell them to come PT with me and that shuts them up.”
Venable also attended the first Force Fitness Instructor Course in October 2016 as a master sergeant, being selected for master gunnery sergeant on graduation day. Venable said he feels more educated as a result of the MAIT course and that the course has improved his patience and his combat mindset.
“I feel prepared for any situation,” he said. He does not feel like he has to “send in the young Marines,” he can go in himself and lead from the front. His goals after graduating the course include running a Martial Arts Instructor course in September 2017 within his unit. Additionally, he wants to use his improved understanding of combat conditioning and the moral tie-ins he has learned to help better his Marines.
When I asked this committed and motivated Marine what advice he would give the Marines considering going through the MAIT course he offered, “Go for the right reasons and don’t underestimate it. Come prepared and run a lot with a flak jacket!”
For questions regarding upcoming MAIT courses please contact Gunnery Sgt. Brendan Runyon, chief instructor, via email at email@example.com or call 703-432-6464. The next course date is Sept. 18- 3 Nov. 3.