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Embassy group promises exciting career through program

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. —
To travel around the world in a diplomatic capacity to any of 148 posts and 133 countries, ensuring the safeguard of classified material is an opportunity Marines have but are not exploring.

http://www.usmc.mil/units/hqmc/quantico/Pages/Embassygrouppromisesexcitingcareerthroughprogram.aspx

7/21/2009
By Wandoo Makurdi,
Marine Corps Base Quantico

The Marine Corps Security Embassy Group held a brief at Little Hall July 15, with the hope of educating Marines and enhancing their career opportunities.

With a recruiting tour scheduled across various bases in the United States, Japan and Iraq currently underway, Gunnery Sgt. James Von Dras, of the MCSEG recruiting and screening team, gave a briefing to Marines highlighting some of the benefits to joining the program.

MCESG, a program that has been in existence since 1948, was formed as part of an agreement between the Marine Corps and the State Department to help protect all classified materials, the staff and personnel of U.S. Embassies and Consulates in various countries.

“The school is set up in such a manner so that we can ensure that MSG students are trained to the levels needed for success at their posts,” Von Dras explained. “Our school is demanding, but Marines continually rise to the challenge and succeed.”

Video footage of two Marines stationed in Italy exploring the historical streets and monuments of Rome was shown to enhance the benefit of how living in foreign countries creates the experience of learning about a variety of cultures and improving on one’s foreign relations knowledge.

Von Dras also supported the video with a presentation detailing the expectations of a Marine security guard and other career enhancing benefits, such as opportunities to work with other government agencies and meritorious promotion prospects, the program provides.

However, the program is currently not meeting its expectations in number of Marines enrolled despite the enticing opportunities.

“The problem we’re faced is that individuals don’t know the primary duties of the Marine security guard,” said Von Dras. “That’s why these briefings are so important. It’s so that we can dispel any myths that they may have heard, and so they understand what the duties and functions of a Marine security guard are.”

Sergeants and below would serve three 12 month tours during their commitment, while staff noncommissioned officers serve two 18-month tours. Any Marine between private first class and master gunnery sergeant can apply to join the program, Von Dras said.

“Once a Marine usually hears about what our primary and secondary mission is, the lifestyle, the career enhancement opportunities and capabilities, we find them very eager to join our program,” he said.

To become qualified involves four phases, Von Dras explained to those in attendance; the first of which entails completing a screening package and getting your unit commanding officer and sergeant major to endorse their approval.

There are other stipulations that have to be met during the screening process before Marines are set up for the second phase: an interview with Von Dras. For example, Sergeants and below who are married cannot join the program, but SNCOs on the other hand may be married provided their spouses are non-military and U.S. citizens.

The chances of qualifying are very high, said Von Dras, who noted that about 75-80 percent of those who make it past the screening checklist usually get into the program. But more support for the Marines from their units and career planners on base will help spark more interest.

Most importantly, Von Dras advised that a security clearance should be obtained prior to applying to the program.

“What we’ve seen most often is everyone is qualified on paper until we get to ‘Do you have a security clearance, and they say no!’ and then everything stops,” said Von Dras. “The most important on the list is ensuring that they have a minimum adjudicated secret clearance with a completed phase one screening.”

For units interested in arranging special briefs or for more information on the MCESG program, contact Von Dras at james.vondras@usmc.mil or call 703-784-4861.