ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. – Twenty-seven sailors, including three
women, graduated from riverine training when they completed the Cape
Fear Final Skills Assessment, Sept. 17, 2013.
for students attending both the Riverine Security Team Member (RSTM)
and Riverine Crewman (RCC) courses, was administered by the Center
for Security Forces Learning Site (CENSECFOR LS) Camp Lejeune, and
the women now qualify for some of the first Navy billets opened when
then-Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta ordered the removal of
gender-based barriers to service in January.
September 14, 2013 - Sailors search a
civilian vessel during a simulated visit, board, search and seizure
on the Cape Fear River during the Riverine Security Team Member
(RSTM) course. RSTM and Riverine Crewman Course students are
completing the Cape Fear Final Skills Assessment administered by the
Center for Security Forces Learning Site Lejeune. (U.S. Navy photo
by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Dustin Q. Diaz)
When Panetta announced the rescission of the 1994 Direct
Ground Combat Definition and Assignment Rule, he ordered all
military services to submit detailed plans for enabling
women to serve in ground combat roles and other roles that
had not been available to them, such as Navy submarines. He
directed the completion of this process by 2016.
Women joining small craft units with the Coastal Riverine
Force (CORIVFOR) is the first of five decision points that
will reflect this change and is beating the secretary's
deadline by more than two years, maintaining standards and
preserving unit readiness and cohesion while integrating
women starting next month.
Audrey Warren, RSTM graduate, said that she wants to
experience everything the Navy has to offer and the lifting
of the restriction is allowing her to do that.
command was happy to send us,” Warren said. “They said,
All the students graduated two classes before
beginning RCC and RSTM at Camp Lejeune in August and
concluding those courses during the assessment.
first attended the Expeditionary Combat Skills course in
Gulfport, Miss., comprising a month of rifle and pistol
marksmanship and combat shooting, basic combat first aid and
other skills needed to perform high-risk operations in a
safe, proficient and professional manner.
built on these skills with an emphasis on combat mindset
during the Riverine Combat Skills course at Camp Lejeune,
The students come from diverse ratings like
quartermaster, aviation ordnanceman and information systems
technician, but all of them had the foundation to tackle
this last step of riverine training at the start of these
courses, according to Mike Bullard, CENSECFOR LS Lejeune
“Both classes we have here right
now have done a lot of classroom preparation, a lot of field
time at Camp Lejeune, and what we do here is sort of bring
all that together and test the individual skills they've
learned in more of a riverine environment,” said Bullard, a
retired master gunnery sergeant who served in the infantry
for 24 years. “[Both classes have] had the opportunity to
shoot at an extensive variety of ranges at Lejeune. The RSTM
students have done a lot of patrolling, land navigation and
cache sweeps, learning their specific jobs. They've learned
all the radios, both what is specific to the boats and for
the RSTM, what they'll be using on the ground. Now it's all
being tied together here on the Cape Fear River.”
Quartermaster 1st Class (SW/AW) Fernando Ortiz, RCC
graduate, said that he had to tap into all the knowledge and
training he'd had up until now to do well during training.
“It's nothing like anything in the Navy,” Ortiz said.
“There's so much involved. There's communications, engines
you gotta know. Weapons, navigation, how to drive. There's
so much tied into it. Yeah, I'm a quartermaster, but I'm
also doing a gunner's mate's job. I'm also doing a
boatswain's mate's job, an engineer, an [electronic
technician's] job. There's so much tied into being a
riverine that you have to know.”
This assessment was
the first opportunity for the RCC students to pilot the
Riverine Assault Boat (RAB) and Riverine Patrol Boat (RPB)
as a crew in a littoral environment, as well as for them to
integrate with the RSTM students.
Living in tents in
an expeditionary camp near the water made the conditions
more challenging for the students than the classroom
environment they'd been working in at Camp Lejeune,
according to Bullard.
“I don't think they've ever
been exposed to anything like this,” Bullard said. “The
weather up here has been hot. They're out there for long
periods of time. They're gonna get tired, they're gonna get
wet, they're gonna get hungry. They're in an expeditionary
environment, and that's gonna carry over into everything
that they do here.”
Master-at-Arms Seaman Brianna
Tran, RSTM graduate, said the irregular schedule, with day
and night operations, was the most challenging part of the
course for her.
“Definitely the lack of sleep,” Tran
said. “Just staying in the game, keeping your head in the
game. You gotta be on your toes at all times. You can't take
that break in the middle of it.”
Bullard said while
the integration of women into this training is new for
everyone involved, the only thing the instructors are
concerned with is whether they are meeting the standard,
which must be gender neutral by law.
“That's all we
really care about, and thus far, they are,” Bullard said.
“They're doing everything that's been asked of them. They're
giving 100 percent effort and we can't ask for anything
Master-at-Arms 3rd Class Angela Evans, RSTM
graduate, said she and her fellow women in the class haven't
had any problems integrating with the men since they are all
doing the same work.
“The guys have all been
accepting,” Evans said. “They expect us to perform at the
same level as they do, and we do.”
The RCC students
performed RAB and RPB operations such as inserts, extracts
and visit, board, search and seizure during day and night
for the first several days of the assessment, while the RSTM
students continued their land-based operations.
two classes integrated for the first time in the final four
days to perform the same kind of littoral missions they'll
do as part of CORIVFOR. For Tran and the other RSTM
students, this was their first chance to step off the RPB
while operating with a riverine boat crew in a real-world
“It was very slippery, to be real about
it, but also, it brought the whole mission together to be
out there with RCC and seeing what they do,” Tran said.
“Integrating together made all the training come together
and you can realize what you're doing while you're doing it
and how things play out. That's what it did for me.”
For Ortiz, completing RCC and RSTM reinforced what CORIVFOR
is all about to him: teamwork.
“Everybody works hard.
We work together, regardless of rank, color or sex,” Ortiz
said. “We keep each other motivated. If anybody's falling
behind or feels like they're having a bad day, we come
together as a team and help each other out.”
is composed of 2,500 active and about 2,000 Reserve sailors
capable of conducting 24-hour operations. These sailors
perform core maritime expeditionary security missions in the
green and brown waters, bridging the gap between traditional
Navy blue water operations and land-based forces, providing
port and harbor security for vital waterways and protection
of high value assets and maritime infrastructure.
Warren said she encourages other women to try and join
CORIVFOR, but to make sure they are ready for the
“It's gonna smoke check you,”
Warren said. “It'll make you actually see for sure if you
really want to do this when you go through this school. But
if you want to do it, I say do it.”
Tran, Evans and
Warren, along with the previous women to complete the RTC,
are now qualified for billets with CORIVFOR in small craft
units alongside their male shipmates.
By U.S. Navy MCS1C Dustin Q. Diaz
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