By Bryan Nygaard
For the Press Times
CAMP JOHNSON, NC – For nearly three years, U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Shannell M. Styczynski has served as an instructor at the Marine Corps’ Logistics Operations School (LOS) in Camp Johnson, N.C., where she teaches entry-level, intermediate and advanced courses on logistics and motor transport operations to enlisted Marines as well as logistics officers.
She was recently recognized as the Marine Corps’ top Formal School Instructor for her achievements in Academic Year 2023 at an awards banquet in Arlington, Va., by Gen. Eric M. Smith, the 36th Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.
During her time as an instructor at LOS, she has enhanced the quality of the academic experience for over 4,600 Marines.
Styczynski was born in Green Bay and grew up in Krakow along with her four brothers and three sisters.
During her senior year at Pulaski High School, she decided to become a Marine after seeing a Marine Corps recruiter walking through her school.
“I’m going to do that one day,” Styczynski told herself as she looked at the Marine in his dress blues uniform.
One of her friends told her she would never make it and that she wasn’t fit enough to be a Marine. Styczynski strengthened her resolve and sought out the recruiter to discuss how she could become a Marine.
After meeting with the recruiter, Styczynski was asked what military occupational specialty (MOS) she wanted in the Marines.
Initially, she wanted to become an infantryman, the main fighting element of the Marine Corps, because she thought that was the only job in the Marines.
Unfortunately, women were not allowed to serve in the infantry at that time (In 2016, the Department of Defense opened infantry and all combat arms jobs throughout the armed services to women).
Knowing that Styczynski wanted a job that would be rigorous and challenging, her recruiter presented her with the idea of being in the motor transportation occupational field.
Known in the Marine Corps as “Motor-T,” motor vehicle operators inspect, operate and manage medium and heavy-wheeled vehicles in a variety of terrain and weather conditions to transport troops, supplies and equipment in support of combat and garrison operations.
Following her graduation from high school, Styczynski attended “boot camp” at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., graduating in December 2008.
She then attended combat training at Marine Corps Base Camp Geiger, N.C., and then transferred to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for training on her MOS as a motor vehicle operator.
Upon graduating from her MOS school, she reported to her first unit, Combat Logistics Battalion 4 on Marine Corps Base Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
Fourth CLB provides motor transport and tactical logistical support to 4th Marine Infantry Regiment.
While at Fourth CLB, Styczynski participated in a multi-national exercise known as “Cobra Gold” where she traveled to Kanchanaburi, Thailand, to conduct convoy training operations with the Royal Thai Army.
She would later transfer to CLB 3 out of Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and deploy to Helmand province, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, providing logistical support and resupply to Marines who were engaged in counterinsurgency operations against the Taliban.
After serving in several different units and participating in multiple exercises, Styczynski was selected to become a Marine Corps recruiter in Appleton.
During her time on recruiting duty, she was responsible for recruiting and processing 73 people into the Marine Corps.
Following her tour on recruiting duty, Styczynski was transferred to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., where she would serve at First Battalion, Fifth Marine Infantry Regiment to serve as the unit’s motor transportation chief.
She was the first female Marine to serve in that unit, which had been closed to women prior to the DOD integrating women into the combat units.
Styczynski would deploy with 1/5 on the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to Japan where she participated in multiple exercises and directly planned and executed over 1,000 logistical support missions.
Throughout the years, Styczynski had identified many deficits within her MOS and wanted to correct them through teaching.
“I wanted to help the (motor transportation) MOS,” said Styczynski. “I wanted to make a difference… If you come to the formal learning school you get to correct those shortfalls and teach people what they don’t know here so in the fleet they can become more successful.”
In April of 2021, she checked into LOS to serve as an instructor for a variety of transportation operations courses.
“I really embrace modernized learning,” said Styczynski. “It’s not informal lecture, demonstration, practical application and examination.
“I’m not successful because of what I know — it’s who I know,” said Styczynski. “I’m not scared to reach out for help. If it was not for [fellow instructors] I would not be successful.”
While she utilizes a variety of methods to engage her students and adapts the lesson plans based on the types of students she encounters, Styczynski says the most powerful tool that an instructor can possess is passion.
“I care,” said Styczynski. “If you walk into a classroom and if you think it is the worst class and that it does not [need to be taught], you still need to walk into that class and make it seem like it is the most important class.”