Teaching skills come in
handy in Iraq for local instructor
High School teacher Jon Marion giving economic lessons in
By Brian Culp
Jon Marion teaches an economics
class at Martinsville High School in addition to social
studies, U.S. history and government.
Today, though he is more than 6,700 miles from home, he
finds himself still teaching a familiar subject — just to a
different audience. Maj. Marion, who is assistant operations
officer and brigade fire support officer for the 76th
Brigade in Iraq, is part of the group that is helping Iraqis
start small businesses in an attempt to jumpstart the local
In part, they are doing this by attempting to start a
vocational/technical school. The school has its start as a
host nation business center where Marion and others are
walking locals through the process of starting businesses
and mentoring them for managerial skills to run businesses.
“As a Guard unit, we’re uniquely qualified to do this
because we hold civilian jobs and have been through the
managerial classes and tests that the Iraqis are going to
face,” Marion said.
It helps that his students are eager to learn. “In many
ways, it’s similar to teaching people there,” Marion said.
“We’re finding that they are quite ready to run on more
initiatives than we can get started at once.”
And the Iraqis are quickly finding success, especially as
“Right now, I’d say it’s going pretty well,” Marion said.
“The area we’re in has really had a downswing in the
violence, and we’ve held several business expo meetings that
have been very well attended.
“The feedback has been very positive to this initiative.
It’s a chance for them to stand their economy back up and
make a living.”
With the success he sees, Marion said, he thinks their
mission in Iraq will have quick results.
“Personally, I don’t think it’s going to take all that
long,” Marion said. “I think they’re proving to be capable
and this will take off. As the Iraqi government continues to
strengthen its position and security grows, they’ll
flourish, and there will be more spinoffs.”
He is also excited about leaving behind a positive
“I think we fell into a unique opportunity here as a brigade
and we’ve jumped in with both feet,” Marion said. “It’s not
often you bring the right skill sets to a situation like
“If we’re successful during our remaining tour, we will
leave quite a legacy behind. Here we have a chance to
rebuild a nation, and that’s something you don’t have many
opportunities to do.”
While he’s enjoying what he’s doing in Iraq, Marion is eager
to get home to see his wife, Lita, and sons Christian, 10,
and Andrew, 9. He is scheduled to return sometime toward the
end of the year.
When he gets home, Marion said he is eager to put the
lessons he’s learned in Iraq into his classroom.
“It’s certainly going to give a whole new set of interesting
stories for the classroom — especially economics,” Marion
said. “Students always ask, ‘Whydo I need to take
“We’ve been putting a lot of it into practical application