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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- When he was 16 years old, he was a supervisor at a scrap-metal yard, and he served as the captain for his high school wrestling team. Today, he’s a sergeant in the Marine Corps and a youth basketball coach.
Leadership has always been part of Cornelius D. Davis’ life, and he let that drive guide him when he joined the military in 2009.
A little more than three years later, Davis’ list of accomplishments continues to grow. He quickly rose to the rank of sergeant; he’s an ammunition technician with Ammunition Company, 2nd Supply Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group; he has a deployment to Afghanistan under his belt; and he still strives to do more.
“I was always leading people,” said Davis, a 22-year-old Chicago native. “It’s very easy to lead if you’re actually setting the example. If you’re out there doing what you need to do, it’s not hard for people to follow you.”
Davis continued to grasp new opportunities to better himself by furthering his education. Soon after joining the military, Davis started taking college classes and is currently a full-time student studying criminal justice on top of his daily duties as a supervisor with his unit.
“Even when I first got here, I was looking at the sergeants and how they did their jobs,” said Davis. “I’ve seen a lot of different leadership styles. I’ve picked and chosen exactly what I like about each. You can see a lot of my leaders in me if you knew them all.”
In addition to work and school, he recently took on the additional challenge of coaching a youth basketball team.
The job proved to be an entirely new kind of test for the Marine who was accustomed to military discipline.
“It definitely helps with my patience,” joked Davis, who named his team the Rockets in honor of his position with Ammunition Co. “My team is a different bunch. A lot of teams you see are calm and relaxed. My team is nothing like that. They’re ready to go. They’re confident and cocky.”
The lessons he learned as a coach added to his leadership style as a Marine. He brought his new sense of patience and experience as a mentor into his daily interaction with his junior servicemembers.
“Respect goes a long way,” said Davis. “Before I was a Marine, I was a man. If you give a man respect when you give him an order, it’s a lot easier. Whether he wants to do it or if you are telling him to do it are two different things … I can trust these Marines. I respect them, and I know they respect me.”
Respect, patience and setting a strong example are only some of Davis’ leadership strengths. He considers himself fortunate to work with many new Marines. The chance to mentor them comes with the opportunity to foster their enthusiasm for the military.
Their enthusiasm adds to his passion for the Marine Corps.
“I love that I get that,” said Davis. “Regardless of rank, I want to know them, I want to talk to them and know what’s going on in their lives.”
He said he strives to give them the tools they need to succeed – educational opportunities, recognition for hard work, and an example to follow. In return, he demands his Marines take responsibility for their own success.
“Nobody’s going to do [their] jobs for them,” said Davis. “I’m [only] going to give them the tools.
“It’s just like everything else,” said Davis. “You’ve got to want it. If you don’t want it, then it’s not going to be there.”
His busy schedule and dedication to his job come with personal sacrifices, too. Davis spent much of his career separated from his wife and high-school sweetheart, Deandrea, who is currently studying to be a social worker. Deployments, long working hours and college classes severely limited the couples time together during Davis’ first three years in the Marine Corps.
The difficulties did not diminish his desire to reach for new opportunities to lead, however. He plans to continue his work in the military and is even looking at reenlisting early so he can move on to another position of leadership as either a recruiter or a drill instructor. He also wants to continue coaching at a more advanced level.