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About 100 Marines deploying to the Middle East and North Africa did a portion of their predeployment training in an unlikely place — a university classroom.
Members of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., have prepped to deploy with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit for months; they headed out to sea Aug. 23. A portion of their training took them to a classroom at University of California, San Diego, to learn more about the region where they are going.
Professors at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies have connected with the service members in their community through predeployment educational briefings they hold there twice each year.
“Members of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, were originally in a briefing in April 2010 prior to their deployment to the China Sea, the Korean peninsula and then onto the Indian Ocean,” said Darla Wilson, the director of UC San Diego’s Global Leadership Institute. “They were very pleased with the program and the information they obtained, so prior now to deploying to North Africa and the Middle East, they returned to have another ... briefing.”
The partnership between the university and San Diego-based Marines began in 2006, she said. To date, about 500 officers and staff noncommissioned officers have attended predeployment briefings.
Wilson said she works closely with the leaders of the deploying units to make sure the university tailors the briefings to the needs of the Marines. They give her general information on where they expect to deploy, and she works with professors and other experts to develop a curriculum that covers topics of interest to them, she said, including briefings on security, economics, politics and cultural issues in the region.
The professors also gain knowledge from the Marines who attend, Wilson said, as they share their expertise from deployments to different parts of the world. Those in academia become entrenched in research and analysis, and Marines are able to provide practical experience from the ground.
“The exchanges are always very interesting and dynamic,” she said.
Wilson credits the successful partnership between UC San Diego and the Corps to commanding officers who have been talking up the advantages of the briefings with other Marines. Because it serves a city with a large military population, the university works hard to offer programs that provide Marines and sailors with skills they can use, including approved courses for foreign service officers and master’s degrees, she said.