Civilian leaders catch a glimpse inside life as a U.S. Marine

7 Dec 2022 | LCpl. Jackson Rush Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. — Stacey Cunningham, a board member and former president of the New York Stock Exchange, has been a key member of one of the most influential economic hubs in the world. However, during the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference Marine Day at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar on Oct. 28, she removed her mantle of leadership and took on the role of follower. Rather than overseeing operations and making decisions on the NYSE, she experienced a day in the life of a U.S. Marine, from stepping onto the “Yellow Footprints” of recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, to flying on an MV-22B Osprey and firing weapons at MCAS Miramar.

Cunningham, who has more than 25 years of leadership experience in the financial sector, said JCOC Marine Day showed her how the Marine Corps quickly instills leadership ability and professional expertise in young Marines – qualities that generally take longer to develop in the business world.

“It took me 15 years in my career to develop the confidence, to develop the discipline, to take challenges, to take risks, and when Marines come in and go through this as young adults, trying to figure out their way through life, they’re given the skillset,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham served as president of the NYSE from 2018 to 2021. As president, she represented over 2,300 prestigious companies in the development of commercial regulations and government legislation. She also led the NYSE through the financial turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cunningham was among a group of approximately 50 corporate executives, business leaders, and influential members of society who the Department of Defense chose to attend the JCOC to gain a better familiarity of military service and the challenges that it faces. This conference allows these influential people to tour bases across the United States for one week, meet with U.S. service members, and experience aspects of military life.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, the chief marketing officer for the Army, said the military hopes the conference guests will spread positive information about the armed forces to increase the public’s awareness of the benefits of service and educate the public on the support required for the military to effectively pursue its objectives in the national interest.

During JCOC, Cunningham and her fellow conference guests began their week-long journey at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, where they met U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. Afterward, they traveled across the country to various military bases, spending a day with each branch of service.

On the last day of their tour, the group arrived in San Diego to spend the day with the U.S. Marines. They began their day early in the morning, standing in formation on the yellow footprints where recruits begin their training at MCRD San Diego. They followed in the recruits’ footsteps to the rappel tower, where many recruits put aside their fears and place their faith in the Marine drill instructors to safely lead them in their transition to earn the title of Marine. At the end of their MCRD San Diego tour, they attended a recruit graduation.

The last portion of JCOC took place at MCAS Miramar, where the participants began their day by having lunch with Marines at the air station mess hall. Afterward, they traveled to the flight line, where they boarded an MV-22B Osprey and flew around the air station. Later, they traveled to the East Miramar rifle range, where they fired the M16A4 service rifle and M18 service pistol.

“As we were getting instructions on how to safely shoot a firearm and how to hit the targets, it was really clear and concise,” said Cunningham. “I recognize that they’re using these skills to protect our country and to protect us, and when they’re shooting those firearms, they’re doing so on very different occasions than a beautiful day in San Diego.”

The commanding officer of MCAS Miramar, U.S. Marine Corps Col. Thomas M. Bedell, believes that the JCOC is an excellent opportunity for senior civilian leaders to interact with Marines and see what they do on a daily basis.

“We take pride in what we do and we’re really good at it,” said Bedell. “I think it’s also an opportunity to showcase the leadership traits that Marines of all ranks have.”

Marine Corps Air Station Miramar