Marine Gunnery Sergeant (GySgt) at Miami University, Francisco Corona, recently received the Assistant Marine Corps Officer Instructor (AMOI) of the Year award, naming him No. 1 in his position across the nation.
Miami President David Hodge presented the medal to the Iraq war veteran at the March 4 ceremony in Millet Hall.
According to Corona, he always knew he wanted to be a Marine, and after joining after high school graduation, his experience as an infantryman reinforced that.
“As an infantry guy, we’re on the ground, we’re patrolling; just the camaraderie we built in our platoon of knowing that you’ll do whatever it takes for the guy to your right and your left,” Corona said. “I got to witness that and see it; it’s an awesome experience I think.”
After his experience in combat, Corona began looking for other ways to serve.
“I think as Marines you’re always looking, ‘What else can I do to improve myself?’ and I think [becoming AMOI at Miami] was my next challenge with this duty,” Corona said. “This duty up to this point has been outstanding.”
Corona said the AMOI position involves preparing first-year and sophomore midshipmen for military life, which he has done at Miami for nearly three years now.
“We do physical training three times a week on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays,” Corona said. “And then on Tuesdays we have what we call our drill period where we cover required training or sometimes we’ll do events that just kind of build teamwork.”
In addition to the physical and team building exercises Corona runs, he teaches a land navigation class in the spring, a practical problems class in the fall and is one of the advisors for Miami’s Pistol Club.
According to Lieutenant Michelle Calarasu, who has worked with Corona in training Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) students, he has gone beyond even those responsibilities.
“He not only does all the responsibility any other [GySgt] would do, but he does a lot of outside things,” Calarasu said. “He will assist and formulate and run practices for three different varsity sports teams to help give them a bit of Marine Corps training there.”
Along with the women’s volleyball, basketball and lacrosse training sessions, Corona involves his midshipmen in various fundraising activities such as Kiwanis Club of Oxford, Wounded Warriors and local food drives.
“I feel like we should try to help out with the community and give back,” Corona said. “So some of the things we’re looking at trying to do is more community relation projects. I know it’s difficult because we already do have a busy schedule, and there are certain events and charities that we give to, and just kind of looking at what else we can do to help out.”
Along with community service, Corona stressed the importance of the strict yet, understanding, philosophy he follows when training ROTC students.
“You’ve got to demand of them; you’ve got to give them goals and you’ve got to give them standards,” Corona said. “So if you hold them to the standards, … they’re going to hold their future Marines and sailors to those same standards.”
According to Calarasu-who sometimes refers to Corona as ‘Gunny,’ short for GySgt-though demanding, he keeps from crushing students’ spirits as other GySgts often do.
“Gunny has brought a completely different feel to the unit where he’ll let you know if you screwed up, but not make you feel so bad that you’re not going to go tell him,” Calasaru said. “He understands they’re learning too.”
With a five-month-old daughter at home, working on a degree in criminal justice and training the midshipmen, Corona holds himself to high standards as well.
“It has been tough for me with my duties here at the ROTC program, trying to deal with academics and then I have a family as well,” Corona said. “So it’s been a little bit challenging to juggle all three.”
Captain Joleen Young, Marine Corps Instructional Officer, wrote Corona’s recommendation for the award, which was limited to a one-page write-up of his achievements from the year of 2012.
“Man, I could’ve said so many great things about him … He just is a great, all-around American man,” Young said. “He has pride in his country, he has pride in the job he does and he has pride in his family and I wish I could’ve said a lot more about him.”
Corona said he was surprised to receive the award.
“To be picked as the number one is humbling,” Corona said. “I have a lot of good friends who do this duty, I guess I honestly don’t think I deserve it over them because I see how well they’ve worked and how hard they’ve worked- it’s an honor.”
Young said she was not surprised by Corona’s reaction to receiving the award.
“It’s really funny because he is so humble, he’s like ‘I don’t want this to be a big deal, I really don’t want to be in the limelight’ … ” Young said. “He wouldn’t be the Marine he is if that wasn’t part of who he is.”
According to Young, it is Corona’s ability to train the midshipmen while pursuing a degree and supporting a family that shows he deserves the award. She said she could not have picked anyone better.
“He really has taken it upon himself to go above and beyond involving other entities in the university and to [show] who we are and how we operate as an ROTC unit,” Young said.
According to Corona, he plans to continue representing the Marine Corps by making himself available whenever and wherever he is needed.
“I’m going to hit my 14-year mark [in the Marines] in June, so I’m definitely going to do at least six more years, I’ll do my 20 years at least,” Corona said. “From here I’m just going to take some classes here at Miami until next summer, the Marine Corps will give me orders and I’ll go to wherever they send me.”