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Students with Infantry Officers Course 4-14 debrief after conducting a long-range vertical insert during the multi-objective training exercise, Exercise Talon Reach IV at Range 220, Sept. 19. The exercise allowed the prospective infantry officers to demonstrate and refine operational reach, digital interoperability and expeditionary capabilities of the Company Landing Team. (Official USMC photo by Cpl. Lauren A. Kurkimilis/Released)

Photo by Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis

Infantry Officers Course: Marine leaders conduct Exercise Talon Reach IV

23 Sep 2014 | Story by Cpl. Lauren Kurkimilis Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Erie cries for help and startling gunshots echoed through the night as a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter descended on the country of Red. A riot of angry protestors surrounded the Sofitel Hotel, where trapped inside were American non-combatants. As the heavy-lift helicopter ominously hovered above its objective, sand, rocks and debris rocketed at the surrounding crowd in a wave of brief deterrence. The Marines of Infantry Officers Course 4-14 emerged from the belly of the massive aircraft, fast roping one-by-one on to the roof of the hotel, as a mob swarmed around the building, threatening the Americans inside and the small group of Marines who had come to their rescue.

Infantry Officers Course students conducted a multi-objective exercise, Exercise Talon Reach IV, at Range 220, Sept. 19 and in to the next morning as part of IOC 4-14.

“Infantry Officers Course is designed to develop 0302 and 0203 infantry officers and ground intelligence officers for service in infantry and reconnaissance battalions in the Marine Corps,” said Maj. George Flynn, director, IOC.

The IOC 4-14 class is made up of 55 students, who were selected for the 13-week course. Most of the training takes place at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., with a patrolling exercise also held at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. The new lieutenants then transitioned out to the Combat Center to conduct three weeks of combined-arms, live-fire training during a portion of IOC called Twentynine Palms Field Exercise. Included in Palmfex was Exercise Talon Reach IV, which allows students to develop skills necessary to working within the Marine Air Ground Task Force.

“Exercise Talon Reach is the raid package here at the Infantry Officers Course and the main focus points of the exercise are really to introduce students to operating in a MAGTF, learning how to leverage the different technology that the Marine Corps has to offer, and to increase our ability to operate in a chaotic environment,” said 2nd Lt. Garret Leffelman, student, IOC 4-14.
During the exercise, the IOC students flew 220 nautical miles in CH-53s, to Range 220 in order to work through the planning and execution of vertically inserting a Company Landing Team into a desired objective, forcing the prospective infantry officers to make decisions and aggressively seize an initiative based on timely intelligence.

“In this case, what we did, which was new, was we flew students out to (Marine Corps Air Station) Yuma, Ariz., to participate with (Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron – 1) instructors in the planning and development of a long-range, vertical insert to secure American citizens as a part of a scenario we developed,” Flynn said.

Among the units with which the students were able to coordinate were MAWTS-1, Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group and Marine Corps Tactics and Operations Group, giving the students a complete look at what it takes to operate within the MAGTF.

“The purpose of this exercise was to introduce the students to the entirety of the (MAGTF,)” said Capt. David Donahue, Talon Reach primary package instructor, IOC. “This was the first time the students were able to do integrated planning with pilots from receipt of mission and through execution.”

Donahue was responsible for all of the behind-the-scenes coordination of the Exercise Talon Reach training package, ensuring the Marines reach all learning objectives required.

“A lot of these students, when they graduate next week, could potentially be going to units that are going to be operating as Special MAGTF crisis-response units off of (Marine Expeditionary Units) and this is a very realistic scenario that they could potentially encounter as platoon commanders,” Donahue said.

The students were given the opportunity to work out realistic problems in a real-time scenario.

“I thought Exercise Talon Reach was a great way to get exposure to the wing and to the MAGTF in general,” Leffleman siad. “This exercise allowed us to get with the pilots and see, as the subject matter experts, what they can provide for us in planning for our troops on the ground as far as winning and dominating a chaotic environment.”

During Exercise Talon Reach IV, the students were given the opportunity to use and provide feedback for cutting-edge technology, which the Marine Corps has been developing. The two items used were the PRC 117G tablet, a network-enabled, wireless device and the Multi-purpose Unmanned Tactical Transport, a vehicle with the capability to follow Marines through virtually any terrain.

“The tablets provide a network for transfer of information between aircraft and the ground units,” Flynn said. “We are trying to continue to provide situational awareness while in flight from the place of loading to our actual insert (landing zone.)”

Even while the Marines are in the aircraft, the tablets have the ability to connect to the Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform network provided by the PRC 117G, which operates similar to Wi-Fi. This allowed the instructors to track where the aircraft was in relation to the objective areas.

“The students were also able to text each other or conduct a chat in order to continually update all their units and aircraft of what’s happening on the deck,” Flynn said.

The MUTT can be remote-controlled or tethered to a Marine, following him at a distance of two meters and will do so at whatever speed the Marine is walking. It is also able to turn around at a moment’s notice and change its course of direction.

“During this exercise, the MUTT transported communication gear but it is also capable of extracting casualties as needed and to facilitate any sort of resupply during operations,” Flynn said.

At the end of the course, the future infantry officers had learned innovative and tried-true means of conducting CLT operations, completing training vital to their success as leaders of the Corps’ fighting forces.

“For the past 13 weeks, these students have been challenged in chaotic and uncertain environments and have been asked to push themselves in the interest of preparing themselves to serve Marines they’ll be leading in the future,” Flynn said. “They have done exceptionally well and they are well prepared to take charge of infantry platoons and take care of the best America has to offer.”

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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms