MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- The Marine Corps is full of different types of training and education programs. While many of the courses are required for promotion and retention, there are also many others available for Marines to simply improve themselves.
Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Best, the Marine Security Guard detachment commander for the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, went above and beyond in improving himself as a Marine when he became the first enlisted student to graduate from the Expeditionary Warfare School’s Blended Seminar Program, Dec. 13.
"My goal is to expand my horizons, and this course is supposed to teach you the (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) in more detail,” said Best. "I want to use this and help influence decisions in operational planning."
The six-month-long training course is comprised of four weeks of resident training, and then 13 weeks of internet training followed by six weeks of resident training. Each student comes to class every day for the first four weeks. During the entire course, the students are working with each other to solve problems.
In a course designed for senior captains, Best’s enlisted rank and experience sets him apart.
“(Best) is a glass ceiling breaker, he’s a groundbreaker,” said Willard Buhl, an instructor for the EWS blended seminar. “He’s the first Staff NCO we’ve had in the Blended Seminar Program. I think he lends a great dimension to the class, because he brings a mature senior enlisted experience to the room.”
It was a bit of a long road for Best to get into the program. The course has been open to enlisted Marines for some time, but officers have priority over enlisted personnel. After spending eight months on a waiting list, Best got accepted into the class and became the first enlisted Marine to be enrolled in the Blended Seminar Program in June.
Best did not know he was the only enlisted Marine in the program until he arrived at Camp Pendleton to start the course. Once he found out he was the first-ever enlisted Marine in the program, he knew wanted to set a good example for the enlisted Marines who would follow in his footsteps. He’s performed so well in the course he’s become a standout even among the commissioned students, and they often look toward him for his experience, according to Buhl.
“They haven’t had the diverse experiences that the gunnery sergeant has had, and they haven’t had the leadership opportunities he’s had,” explained Buhl. “So he not only provides that enlisted perspective to them, but he provides a bit more experience with it. Its powerful.”
Best joined the Marine Corps in August 2004, a month after he graduated high school. He enlisted as a financial management specialist, but took advantage of an opportunity to move into supply during Marine Combat Training.
"Supply is such a larger military occupational specialty than financial management," explained Best. "I've been able to do a lot of other things in the Marine Corps because my job allows me to."
Throughout his time in the Marine Corps, Best has branched out into different areas to become as well rounded possible. He’s a third-degree Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Trainer and a combat marksmanship instructor. While building his Marine Corps career, he has also worked on his outside education and studying for his master's degree.
"Someone told me knowledge equals access and access equals influence," said Best.
Now that he’s graduated from the program, Best is looking forward to using his new knowledge and experience to improve the Marines he leads.
"Trying to increase my knowledge showed people here that I wasn't trying to make this a check in the box," said Best. "This is not a requirement for me to be here, I am here to make myself better for my Marines."