The Fort Leonard Wood Marine Corps Detachment’s Motor Transportation Instruction Company, along with one of their instructors — Marine Staff Sgt. Matthew Caruso — were named the 2019 Marine Corps Motor Transport Unit and Instructor of the Year.
The winners of the annual Marine Corps Motor Transport Awards Program were announced March 3.
Marine Maj. Chad Phillips, MTIC commander, said he’s happy to see the hard work of his Marines recognized at the highest levels in the Corps.
“They do a lot on a daily basis to better themselves,” Phillips said. “It’s the incremental, individual work from each instructor that makes a good unit. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Phillips added that it’s not every day that a training unit wins awards at this level.
“We competed against a lot of fleet Marine force units,” he said. “That is some stiff competition and is indicative of the high level of effort put forth daily by individual instructors.”
While providing superior performance in their duties teaching vehicle courses — MTIC instructors drove 473,077 miles while transporting 78,906 passengers and 24,069,217 pounds of cargo over various types of terrain across the post over the past year — safety was always at the forefront. Road Warrior awards were presented to 191 MTIC Marines for operating tactical vehicles without mishaps or violations over 2,500-mile increments.
In addition, numerous other best practices have come out of a bi-monthly ideas and innovation forum the unit conducts.
MTIC instructors also took first place over teams from all the other services in Fort Leonard Wood’s Joint Service Truck Rodeo in September 2019.
Caruso was singled out for his individual award based on organizational skills he demonstrated as the Motor Transport Operations Chief, in addition to performing his regular duties as an instructor.
He also volunteers his time as the flag presenter of a Marine Corps funeral detail and engages young people in the community through the Pulaski Young Marines Program and the post’s Youth Sports Program.
For Caruso, the awards he and his unit have won are indicative of “the high caliber of instructors we have here and the level of investment they all contribute to the institution.”
As a master instructor, Caruso advises other instructors in his company as well as students. He said the opportunity to witness various techniques other instructors use has contributed to his accomplishments.
“Many of my peers coached, counseled and mentored me along the way … and for that I am very grateful,” he said.
According to Marine Col. Ralph Rizzo, Fort Leonard Wood Marine Corps Detachment commander, Caruso is an indispensable asset to the MTIC.
“His dynamic leadership, aggressive initiative and unparalleled aptitude as an instructor at this formal learning center have been the catalyst for many of the detachment’s continued successes,” Rizzo said. “Caruso sets the standard for others to follow.”
Phillips said that what set his unit apart in a competitive field was the desire on the part of all his instructors to constantly improve.
“I can’t force them to make themselves better instructors,” Phillips said. “I can provide opportunities for them to be successful, but if they don’t take those opportunities and take ownership, it doesn’t matter. It’s the individual efforts grouped together to make a strong team and that’s what brought us across the finish line.”