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Driven to succeed: Staff sergeant explains college-to-commissioning program

By Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | August 10, 2015


Staff Sgt. Jessica Lynn Bailey’s command presence is noticeable. The former drill instructor’s uniform is crisp and sharp. Her voice is sympathetic but firm. Her movements are focused, calm and composed. Her path to success has led her to becoming a leader in the Marine Corps, a drill instructor leading hundreds of recruits and now the opportunity to influence Marines through another avenue.

The title “United States Marine” is an accomplishment. The Marine Corps values its leaders and teaches its most junior ranking Marines to lead and influence their peers and keep a good portrayal of the Corps. However, there are opportunities in the Marines to further improve leadership potential.

The Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Educational Program allows enlisted Marines to attend the Officer Candidate’s School in Quantico, Va. Upon passing, they are able to put their active duty service on hold, in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. Once they obtain the degree, they are commissioned as second lieutenants.


The Marine Corps demands excellent leadership skills and discipline from its officer cadre, and while Bailey may have all those qualities; her humility and genuine concern for her Marines are what shine through.

 “Troop welfare isn’t mutually exclusive to mission accomplishment, they go hand in hand with each other,” said Bailey. “I want to create a comfortable, firm, fun environment that the Marines will want to perform in and accomplish their mission better.” 

“If you create an environment that makes it even more difficult to go through, you’re making it harder for those Marines to accomplish the mission,” added Bailey.

“I believe I can uphold that image with integrity and pride because I’m always striving to perfect my leadership capabilities and I have the courage to stand up for what’s right,” added Bailey.

Marine officers hold tremendous responsibility, and even a seasoned drill instructor such as Bailey has doubts as to whether or not she is up to the task.

“I’ve been hard on myself and have always wondered if I’d be good enough to become an officer. I didn’t see it in myself,” said Bailey. “I feel like I’m ready to go through with the program and it’s something that all my leaders have helped me with. But I’ll always wonder if I’m good enough to lead Marines at this level,” added Bailey.

 Despite Bailey’s reservations, her series commander, Capt. Amanda Brown, had full faith that she would succeed in MECEP.

“She handled stress well and led her peers through very difficult high-risk situations,” said Brown. “She’s very smart, she’s a very hard worker and her fellow staff sergeants looked up to her. She’s just a natural born leader.”


Potential MECEP applicants must make sure they satisfy all academic and administrative requirements as listed on http://www.mcrc.marines.mil/UnitHome/OfficerPrograms.aspx. Prospective candidates must then write an essay and be interviewed by a board of officers about why they want to become an officer.

“I told the board I wanted to have the ability to make change for the better,” said Bailey. “I want to make policy as opposed to just recommending it. Above all else I wanted to become a Marine Corps Officer because of what it means in the hearts and minds of not only other service members but also to the nation.”

Bailey is entering the program on September 20th. Bailey and other selected Marines will attend a 10-week Officer Candidate’s School course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., where they are taught the fundamentals of becoming a Marine Corps Officer.

Upon completing the course they attend a university or college offering a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps program. Bailey intends to pursue her passion for science and study Biology at Texas A&M.

“I love science. Thanks to MECEP, I’ll be able to study biology which I’ve always been interested in. It’s a broad subject,” said Bailey. “I don’t know where I’ll be after the Marine Corps but biology provides me with several options, from education, to criminal justice and medicine.”

Marines that successfully complete their degree and MECEP requirements will be commissioned as second lieutenants. They then attend The Basic School where they are taught how to be a basic Marine Corps Infantry Officer.

Bailey’s peers are confident that she will succeed in her dream of becoming an officer despite these challenges.

“She’s overcome a lot of obstacles,” said Brown. “She’s strong and she loves the Marine Corps and Marines. I’m confident she’ll do really well in OCS and that she’ll help build up even more Marines once she becomes an officer.”