TBILISI, Georgia -- Standing on a platform and instilling vital military knowledge for career development to a classroom full of servicemembers is pretty standard for instructors at the Marine Corps Staff Non-Commissioned Officers Academy, but helping shape the curriculum more than 6,000 miles from home is a bit out of the normal. Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy Donaldson was selected as the Marine instructor to pack his things and go half way around the world to help develop the curriculum and instruction at the Republic of Georgia Senior NCO academy in Tbilisi.
The Bangor, New York native was pushed out of his element in July and had to overcome both cultural and language barriers to accomplish the advisory mission. He was given five weeks to integrate, evaluate and help design any new content for the course. “I had worked with some Georgians while in Afghanistan so I had high hopes, but I didn’t know how developed their curriculum was,” said Donaldson. “I was pretty impressed when I first got here. They are well educated and a many had attended U.S. military schools and some had even been through the Marine Corps staff NCO academies.” The Georgian military is a young organization having formed in the early 1990s and they are still refining the way they train and fight.
According to Donaldson, one of the main goals of his visit was to put more responsibility on the non-commissioned officers. “I think they accepted the ideology of empowering an NCO and they are going to run with it because they aren’t currently utilized as much as we are used to in the Corps,” said Donaldson. “I think this will allow them to take on more responsibility and placed in higher positions which will make a better NCO corps for themselves.” The evaluation focused on their capstone course for NCO’s which lasts a total of 16 weeks according to Donaldson. “They asked me to come help them develop some new curriculum, revise some of their old curriculum and serve as an advisor to how they teach.” The focus of the assistance was on organizational leadership according to Donaldson. He used a combination of civilian literature and Marine Corps Institute knowledge as a supplement.
“Their course focused mostly on infantry tactics so I included some Marine fire support coordination, surface danger zone knowledge, combat operational stress and updated their offensive and defensive fundamentals,” said Donaldson. “I also helped to revamp their physical training program and helped organize and execute their first change of command ceremony.” The trip turned into much more than a simple mission of evaluating a course of instruction. “Marines are known as a band of brothers but here, the culture is different. They took me in as a stranger and housed me over the weekends with their mothers, fathers and children,” explained Donaldson. “They overindulged me in every aspect of Georgian culture and it was amazing!” While the current training facility is not state-of-the-art, construction is underway on a new site which the leadership hopes to move into by the end of this year. According to Donaldson, the new campus, will include a hotel, enough buildings to house all NCO professional military education, interactive library, private study rooms and an elaborate gym plus more. He has worked very hard here where we have degraded facilities and materials but we are both military and we have seen more ugly places,” said Sgt. Maj. Shalva Okmelashvili, the senior enlisted soldier with the Georgian NCO academy. “We have become first of all good friends and we will keep in contact during my service in the Georgian military forces.” Once complete, Donaldson will return to Camp Lejeune as the advanced course faculty advisor. “I’d like to thank Gunny for what he did for the NCO school and NCO course in Georgia and to the US Marine Corps for sending GySgt Donaldson,” said Okmelashvili.