Stripes Spotlight: Gunnery Sgt. Brent Fisher
You were recently given the Enlisted Professional Military Education Instructor of the Year Award. Why is that a big deal?
Two parts to this: 1) The SNCO Academy is regarded as the cornerstone of enlisted development, so to be accepted to serve as an instructor at the academy is an acknowledgement in and of itself. 2) To be selected as the instructor of the year for all six academies is extremely humbling considering the approximately 100 or so quality individuals that served as academy instructors last year.
What kind of professional perks come with the award?
Unfortunately you don’t get access to a corporate jet or a country club membership; you are awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, which can possibly help toward future promotions. Beyond that, it’s the recognition from your SNCO peers.
What does the award mean to you personally?
It means that that those who taught me must have known what they were doing. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to take from their experience.
Marines are stereotypically rough and tough. Does that apply to your classroom methods?
Instructing by itself is a challenge. Having to teach your peers (gunny sergeants) is an even bigger challenge. You really have to practice people skills so that you don’t create barriers between you and those attending the course. It cannot be approached with a “you will do this” manner; many say to be a successful leader you have to lead by example. I think that has to be amplified when teaching your peers. It requires a lot of preparation and study. However, the rewards are immeasurable.
How do you inspire your students?
I think to inspire them you have to allow them to be able to express their own ideas, present possible options in a way that hopefully broadens their scope, and then let them determine their position on different subjects — a lot of open dialogue.
You said you plan on retiring next year. Then what?
My goal has always been to serve 20 years in the Marine Corps. From there my goal is to work toward becoming the CEO of a corporation, finish writing a book I am currently working on, and become a motivational speaker.
Tell us about the book.
It concerns race relations. Growing up in Atlanta in the 70s and 80s, my knowledge of black history was limited to Dr. Martin Luther King. Once in the Marine Corps, my knowledge of American history and society expanded. I hate not knowing about a certain topic. Lacking knowledge on black history, while at the same time learning about the social differences between black and white Americans thanks to the diversity of the Marine Corps, help foster a passion for wanting to learn more. I feel that because people aren’t being publicly hung, beaten, drug through the street, or sold on a street corner doesn’t mean that racism is not very prevalent. I feel there is progress that still needs to be made, and I want to help move society toward true equality.
How can we improve race relations in the military?
Take time to understand other groups and don’t assume you know their feelings. However, the military is a great place for people to learn cultural differences. Kind of like accents, the longer you stay in the military, the more blended a person’s accent becomes to the point where it almost becomes indistinguishable among service members.
(Editor’s note: Gunnery Sgt. Fisher is the husband of Stars and Stripes reporter Cindy Fisher.)
Gunnery Sgt. Brent FisherAge: 36Title: Chief Instructor, Marine Corps Staff Non-Commissioned Officer Academy (Duty Station: Okinawa)
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