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Twentynine Palms

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center

Twentynine Palms, California
3/4 conducts small unit leadership training

By Lance Cpl. Nicholas M. Dunn | | September 14, 2007


The fire team leaders of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, completed the Tactical Small Unit Leader Course Sept. 14 at Combat Center Training Areas Lava and West.

The Marines spent three weeks brushing up on basic infantry small unit tactics, marksmanship and weapons training.

“This is a trial for the Marine Corps,” said Staff Sgt. Paul V. Cooke, platoon sergeant, India Company, 3/4. “Battalion level training in small unit leadership is a relatively new concept.”

The first week began at Training Area Lava and consisted of instructing the Marines on the different weapons systems, the use of optics and night vision goggles, standard operating procedures, and habits of thought and action.

The next week moved into the combat arms phase. Here, the fire team leaders learned how to manipulate weapons like the M16A2, M16A4, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the M203 grenade launcher. They also learned how to integrate the use of grenades and AT-4 disposable rocket launchers into a fire team.

In order to graduate the second week of training, each fire team had to assault and reduce a machine gun bunker. They also had to incorporate all the different weapons systems into their assault. The exercise was entirely live fire only, adding more difficulty and pressure to the situation.

In the final week of the course, the Marines were taught patrolling knowledge like individual land navigation, combat reporting, how to prepare for a combat patrol and how to properly conduct a fire team reconnaissance patrol. One such patrol was led by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Montiel, a fire team leader for 1st Platoon, Lima Company, 3/4.

As the patrol leader, Montiel was responsible for conducting the patrol brief, the patrol rehearsals, the patrol itself and the patrol debrief. Each patrol was sent out with an observer who evaluated them on their performance.

Montiel’s mission was to patrol east of Forward Operating Base West to gather intelligence on enemy activity and capabilities in that area. The patrol did not make contact with the enemy, but they successfully determined the enemy’s strength in the area east of the FOB.

“I really felt they performed really well,” said 2nd Lt. Joe Dilling, 3rd Platoon commander, India Company, 3/4. “They really know their individual infantry skills. It was a very solid patrol. I’m very happy with it.”

Montiel felt the course could be a little more advanced, but it’s also a very good refresher course for the Marines, he said.

The instructors are very optimistic about the course and feel that it is good training for the fire team leaders to pass on to their junior Marines.

“It really puts other training into perspective to go back to the basics,” said Cpl. Cesar L. Mendoza, 2nd Squad Leader, 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3/4 and an instructor for TSULC. “Sometimes we forget to reiterate training. Going back to the fundamentals and being professional at them is important.

“The battalion is doing a good job at getting leaders involved and being proactive by giving the Marines adequate training,” he added. “We’re taking the right steps to making this next deployment successful.”

The students also shared an optimistic view on the outcome of the course.

“It’s good that they bring us out here to recover the basics and get everyone on the same page,” said Cpl. Joshua W. Cummings, a fire team leader for 2nd Platoon, India Company, 3/4. “Everyone is getting the material down pretty well.”

Now that the fire team leaders of 3/4 have fine-tuned their basic infantry skills, they can pass that knowledge down to their junior Marines. The Marines and sailors of 3/4 will continue to hone their war fighting skills in preparation for their upcoming deployment early next year.

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