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Age of Warriors
by USMC Cpl. Sarah Dietz - March 1, 2012

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Feb. 16, 2012 - Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attended the Tactical Small Unit Leadership Course for combat leadership and skill training. Photo by USMC Sgt. Heather Golden
Feb. 16, 2012 - Marines from 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attended the Tactical Small Unit Leadership Course for combat leadership and skill training. Photo by USMC Sgt. Heather Golden

 TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (2/24/2012) - Life and death is an infantryman's business. They need to know when to take it and to know how to save it. Their mission's success depends on strong leaders. Leading someone into and back out of death's hands demands only the best.

Marines with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, sent their upcoming leaders to the field to complete the Tactical Small Unit Leaders Course earlier this month.

The two-week course took the Marines to the American Mine training area, where they were consumed with combat leadership training.

The average day for the grunts began at 5:30 a.m. Ranges and classes ran daily until 6 p.m. with a chance of night fire.

The ranges scheduled were unique to each Marine's primary job. 
The infantrymen, machine gunners, assaultmen and mortarmen wereseparated from each other to focus on their individual required skills.

While some focused on firing, others turned their attention to maneuvering and communication.

“Anybody can be a team leader in garrison. Out here we can see if he's got it,” said Cpl. Brandon Besendorfer, mortar squad leader, Company F, 2/7. “These are all peers. None of the [new guys] are out here. They have all been on deployment together. If you can't give a peer an order, how are you supposed to be able to lead Marines?”

The Marines were given an abundance of ammunition for every weapon brought to TSULC. The infantrymen cross-trained, meaning they were taught weapon systems outside their normal job. Basic riflemen were given machine guns, rocket launchers and grenade launchers to train on.

EOD representatives from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., came to American Mine with updated EOD reports from Afghanistan. Based on the reports, they taught the Marines current counter-improvised explosive devise measures.

“The newer guys learned a lot,” said Sgt. Erik Fredrickson, platoon sergeant, Co. F, 2/7. “It was definitely beneficial, and I definitely recommend more courses like these for the future. I think they'd help.”

TSULC was also an opportunity for the more experienced leaders to mentor the newer ones.

“For us this is a refresher,” Fredrickson said. “We are able to mentor the future team leaders and get them ready for Afghanistan.”

The training period gave the upcoming leaders an opportunity to refine and critique specific skills.

The course ended with a demonstration of what the Marines learned during their 12 days of training with the battalion leadership watching the best squad in the group perform.

An evaluation was held Feb. 16, to determine which squad that would be.

Each team and squad demonstrated their skill while patrolling through a small valley, sweeping for improvised explosive devices. Once the valley was clear, the Marines crested a hill and attacked a bunker with multiple targets.

The Marines' communication, tactics and maneuvering were also evaluated.

Before the exercise, an evaluator approached squad leader Sgt. Travis Beattie and asked his scheme of maneuver. Knowing the most successful attacks come from teams who can stay flexible, because situations are constantly changing in battle, he replied, “We are going to wing it.”

Beattie's squad had the most successful run and was picked to demonstrate the final attack the following day.

With the rest of the class watching, along with the battalion and 7th Marine Regiment leaders, the men who became known by some as the “super squad,” conducted the final attack.

A convoy of four Humvee vehicles traveled through a valley in the training area. The first vehicle was hit by a simulated improvised explosive device explosion.

Reacting immediately, the Marines in the third Humvee unlatched a tow bar from their vehicle and ran to the aid of the front vehicle, while the Marines in the turrets of the remaining three Humvees provided cover fire for them, shooting at simulated enemy targets. When the first vehicle was secured for a tow, a 7-ton vehicle pulled the first Humvee to safety.

Lance Cpl. Kyle Koch, squad leader, Company F, fired his shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapon at a simulated target, a pile of tires. Koch hit his target so exact, he sent a tire flying hundreds of feet in the air with the explosion. This was followed by an enormous cheer from the observing Marines who had participated in TSULC with him.

The Marines split up. Beattie established a support by fire position on a berm, while three others swept around to the simulated insurgents and cleared the area.

The mission was a success, and for Koch's accuracy, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Jones, battalion gunner, pulled off his bursting bomb rank insignia and gave it to the lance corporal.

More photos available below

By USMC Cpl. Sarah Dietz
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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