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The Marines of the Tactical Training Exercise Group mentor and evaluate units throughout their predeployment training at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and prepare them for the rigors of combat.

Photo by Cpl. Sarah Dietz

Marines Behind ITX

15 Feb 2013 | Cpl. Sarah Dietz

Amidst the Marine Corps’ premiere pre-deployment Integrated Training Exercise, stands a group of Marines who teach, coach and mentor every Marine Corps unit which passes through the Combat Center training areas. They call themselves Coyotes.

Wearing their signature neon-orange flak jackets, the Coyotes, with Tactical Training Exercise Control Group, are divided into two teams, Team West and East. Their focus is to observe and assess training, ensuring the Marines are safe and fully combat ready for their deployment.

“Our stated purpose is threefold, to provide a safety back stop, paint the range to life and provide an assessment of the exercise forces’ actions,” said Capt. Gary Slater, Team West Coyote, TTECG. “We have a unique mandate to assess every deploying infantry battalion. We have a unique perspective on the Marine Corps in that capacity. We are familiar with the events but with every unit that comes through here, it’s their first time doing it.”

Part of the job is presenting a scenario to a training unit, watch how the unit responds to the situation and add resistance to the scenario to keep the Marines on their toes.

“We paint a picture of the battlefield for them,” said Cpl. Daniel Warbritton, Team East Coyote, TTECG. “We can build a scenario, if they have a plan, we can throw in friction points to that plan to see how they react to something outside the normal and expected.”

Training to become a Coyote is tedious and repetitive. The long days and training ensure they can effectively assess the Marines going through ITX as well as keep them safe.

“We have academics training, practical application training and we have a fairly in depth Coyote qualification process.  It’s where you observe a training event, then you backseat a Coyote who is controlling his segment for the training event. Then, you front seat that training event. Finally, you take the training wheels off and you run that training event from your lane, by yourself,” said Slater, a native of Eden Prairie, Minn. “It’s pretty detailed and pretty rigorous. It’s to ensure quality control and to make sure that a coyote is fully prepared for that task, for that range, for that event and fully qualified.

“It is a process. It takes several ITX’s. It takes a complete ITX to be introduced to every range. By your second or third ITX is when you complete your qualification,” Slater added. “It is a lengthy process, a lot of time invested in it.”

The TTECG Marines are from all over the Marine Corps. They are selected from many different Military Occupational Specialty fields.

“Respective occupational fields and MOSs typically screen and send the appropriate people to TTECG so they’re going to get a high quality of professionals who are subject matter experts in their field,” Slater added. “It’s a blend of warfighting functions and other elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. To be selected to be a Coyote, it’s supposed to be a prestigious billet.”

The day of a Coyote is long. Breaks are rare during an ITX cycle.

 “We are busy,” said Warbritton, 22, native of Peoria, Ill. “We usually get up when it’s dark, we get home after dark. We’ll work every day during ITX. We are there to make sure they stay safe while on the range and to point out the faults and tell them where they need improvement.”

Slater said between ITX training cycles, the TTECG Coyotes conduct internal After Action Reports to improve practices and procedures and to improve exercise design and scenario development. The Marines are continuously looking to improve and facilitate better training.

“All the Marine Corps is represented here,” Slater said. “We work long hours together, everybody needs to know everybody else’s job and have to work together as a team.”

The long hours and work build a sense of camaraderie among the Coyotes.

“You work with some really good people,” Warbritton said. “Coyotes cover down on the Marines, at some point or another, lowest rank to highest rank, we’ve all been there at some point or another. It’s a lot of shared experiences.”

“I’ve always had a mix of respect and pity for the coyotes because of the long hours and what they have to go through to become a Coyote to maintain their proficiency and high level of professionalism,” Slater said.


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