Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany --
For a little girl growing up in Marigot, Dominica, a fishing village, and the third largest town on the small Caribbean island in the Commonwealth of Dominica, it was not uncommon to dream of getting a good education and having a successful career.
Sgt. Pearl A. Winston, systems analyst, Logistics Capabilities Center, Marine Corps Logistics Command, had no idea that she would be where she is today after moving from Dominica to Irvington, N. J., in 2002.
Winston applied for the Marine Enlisted Commissioning Education Program in April 2007 because of her desire to become a Marine officer, and was notified on Dec. 10, 2008, that she was selected. She is scheduled to report on May 25, 2009.
According to Marine Administrative Message 0248/09 dated April 14, 2009, MECEP is an enlisted-to-officer commissioning program designed to provide outstanding enlisted Marines the opportunity to serve as Marine Corps officers.
Upon completion of the program and officer candidate school, participants will be appointed as second lieutenants and are required to serve four years as a commissioned officer.
While participating in MECEP, promotion opportunities remain uninterrupted and are non-competitive while participating in the program.
Those Marines who are selected receive full pay and allowances, excluding proficiency pay and are attached to the nearest Marine Corps activity in the vicinity where they are attending school.
MECEP does not exceed four years.
“It was not an easy process, but well worth it,” said Winston. “Each person at every level above me had to recommend me, including Major General (Willie J.) Williams.”
“I chose MECEP because I thought it was a perfect fit for me and because I wanted a bigger leadership role as a Marine. If a person does not want to interact with or be in charge of leading Marines, then this may not be the program for them,” said Winston.
“I am always thrilled to see Marines striving for advancement and self improvement. MECEP provides our Marines an opportunity for both advancement in leadership skills and traits, and the earning of a college degree. I am very proud of Sergeant Winston for taking on the challenge. I’m sure she will do well in the program and be a fine addition to our officer corps,” said the LOGCOM commanding general.
Even though classes do not start until the fall, Winston chose to attend the preparatory school in Quantico, Va., to prepare herself for the transition.
“For some, attending the MECEP preparatory school is a requirement, but because of my test scores, I was given an option. In the fall, I will begin my college courses at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study psychology,” Winston said.
Winston graduated from Saint Andrews High School in Dominica in 1999 at age 16 and attended college there briefly before moving to the United States in 2002.
“My initial plan was to continue my education in the United States, but that did not happen. I applied to and was accepted to Montclair State University in New Jersey and a few others, but I did not want my parents to struggle to send me to college,” Winston said.
“I wanted to pay for school on my own and was actually online looking for scholarships and a Marine Corps advertisement popped up. I checked it out by putting in my contact information and it wasn’t long before a recruiter showed up. After weighing all my options at the time, I decided to join the Marine Corps. I had a great recruiter who told me everything I wanted to know, and I can honestly say he did not lie to me,” Winston said.
Winston attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., in January 2003 and arrived here in March 2007.
“Slowly but surely, I attended college off and on, sometimes taking one class at a time for a few years. I received my associate’s degree from Campbell University in 2007. Now I only have two years before I graduate and accept my commission as an officer,” Winston said.
MECEP is a very competitive program and only a few Marines are selected each year.
According to Marine Corps Order 1560.15L, dated Aug. 16, 1994, the selection board convenes annually to select Marines and will only select those found to be best qualified on the basis of their total records, including the substance of the application, the interview board report, the recommendation of the commanding officer and current academic achievements, past performance as a Marine and future potential to become a Marine officer.
“Sergeant Winston is a fine Marine following a dream which is now within her reach. She is a professional Marine that can accomplish any task,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 David Dougherty, retail systems analyst, LCC. “As part of our Marine family she will be greatly missed and we await her return as a lieutenant. Sergeant Winston will make a great officer and a fine example for all Marines to follow.”
Winston credits her strict and disciplined upbringing that prepared her for a career in the Marine Corps.
She also said education was one of the reasons she joined the Marine Corps and so far she has stayed on course.
Winston, the oldest of four children, has one sister and two brothers.
“My sister is also a Marine and is currently deployed to Al Taqqadum, Iraq; my brother is attending flight school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and my youngest brother graduates from high school in New York this year,” Winston added.
As she prepares to leave Albany, she offered the following words of wisdom to her fellow Marines.
“The best things in life are hard to come by and it isn’t always easy, but I think you appreciate it more when you work hard for something,” Winston said.
“In my case, it is a great feeling to be selected for MECEP and to make the final cut on my first try. I knew the competition for this program was tough and other people had prepared me for the chance I may have to apply again,” Winston said.
“Marines who are interested in this program must take the initiative to research and complete the application package on their own. Opportunities won’t always come to you easy, you have to go out there with your own drive and go get it,” Winston said.
“My parents are very proud of not only me, but all of us, and this makes it all worth it. They can sleep well at night now,” she said.