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Corporals with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 receive their blood stripes during a Blood Stripe Ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 17. Marines are not entitled to wear the traditional blood stripe until they reach the rank of corporal, signifying their status as a noncommissioned officer.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Michael Thorn

Earning their stripes: HMLAT-303 Corporals honored in ceremony

18 Jan 2014 | Cpl. Michelle Piehl 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Eleven corporals with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 (HMLAT-303) symbolically received the noncommissioned officer blood stripe during a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Jan. 17.

Understanding the commitment behind the rank only begins the transformation from follower to leader.
Noncommissioned officers form the backbone of leadership in the Marine Corps through their responsibility of the morale, discipline and efficiency of junior Marines.
“A committed and engaged NCO is one who sacrifices oneself in order to lead,” said Cpl. Everlin Hernandez Juarez, vice president of the HMLAT-303 NCO association and an aviation technician. “Being a Marine is more than just a job, it is a lifestyle. NCOs are always on call for their young Marines - whether it is for mentorship or someone to go to when they have personal problems. We expect future NCOs uphold the title of corporal by maintaining a Marine state-of-mind and setting even higher standards.”

Friends, family and fellow Marines attended the ceremony. Sgt. Maj. Donna Dunbar, HMLAT-303 sergeant major, introduced the ceremony to the squadron, explained HernandezJuarez.

“The blood stripe ceremony is held in order to honor the great legacy of the NCO and is meant for new Corporals to understand the importance of being a part of that legacy,” said HernandezJuarez. Inviting families to the squadron promotes more understanding of the Marine Corps lifestyle, which in turn boosts moral and esprit de corps, explained HernandezJuarez, a Long Beach, Calif., native.

Learning to balance the Marine Corps lifestyle and home life can challenge Marines of any rank. For one Marine in the ceremony, he attributed his success in this manner to his wife.

“My wife Loren and daughter Peyton [attended] the ceremony,” said Cpl. Brandon M. Bernal, a helicopter mechanic with HMLAT-303 and an Oceanside, Calif., native. “My wife has encouraged me to strive to be a better Marine, husband and father.”

Bernal says he takes pride in ensuring the Marines under his charge maintain a professional and proficient mentality, while striving to keep moral at the highest level.

“Being an NCO means that I can encourage my junior Marines and peers harder to strive to be better than they are now,” said Bernal. “It means that someday, when I leave, my peers and Marines below me know how to be good leaders and how to take care of one another.”