MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. Â â€” More than 45 Marines with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, participated in a Tactical Small-Unit Leadership Course May 2-18.
The main focus of the event was to take potential fire team leaders out of their comfort zone and into simulated combat situations where decisions normally made by others were now up to them.
â€œRight now, these are the guys that were the new Marines last year before our deployment, so theyâ€™ve pretty much been living in the shadows of their leaders up to this point,â€ Sgt. Taylor L. Limes, from Crestview, Fla., 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, TSULC squad mentor, said. â€œThis is our chance to pull these guys and mentor them before theyâ€™re filling in the positions of outbound Marines. Weâ€™re building their confidence so theyâ€™re ready to step up and take charge.â€
The unit returned from a deployment as a Battalion Landing Team with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in February and is in the process of a personnel rotation. The majority of Marines currently holding billets as fire team leaders are either transitioning out of the Corps or the unit, 1st Lt. Stephen T. Desmond, a Scituate, Mass., native and officer in charge of the battalionâ€™s TSULC.
â€œFor the past two years, a lot of these guys have spent their time as riflemen,â€ Desmond said. â€œThe biggest jump in anybodyâ€™s career, when you are a Marine, is when you transition from follower to leader. So, weâ€™re trying to teach that over a two-and-a half-week period.â€
The training operation was broken up into five phases where prospective fire team leaders participated in the implementation of various weapons systems, tactical movements, communications and land navigation. The exercises were geared toward critical thinking, putting Marines in position to call the shots.
â€œSince day one of (the School of Infantry) and up to the end of this last deployment, they weâ€™re all riflemen, so they weâ€™re focused on individual actions,â€ Limes said. â€œTheir main focus then was, â€˜what can I do to support my team?â€™ Weâ€™re here to rebuild their muscle memory and build them as a team leader and let them know their primary weapon is their team.â€
Squad mentors and primary instructors coached fire team leaders as they maneuvered their teams through trenches and over berms in simulated assaults.
â€œThere (are) two simulated enemy machine gun bunkers as well as fire team-sized elements that will pop up,â€ Desmond explained, as he pointed toward the range. â€œThey could get caught with their pants down. Itâ€™s all about decision making, decision making, decision making.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to evaluate and enforce making a decision because a Marine who canâ€™t make a decision or shies away, ultimately is never going to be successful as a fire team leader â€“ not everyone will get a slot or make the cut,â€ he later added.
The TSULC is one of the battalionâ€™s first major training events since returning with the 22nd MEU and just a small step in their overall training matrix. With a potential 2013 deployment to Afghanistan, Limes said now is the time for the Marines to find their weaknesses and prove they have what it takes to lead.
â€œWhile youâ€™re in training, go ahead and step up, make the mistakes so that you can build from it,â€ Limes said. â€œIf youâ€™re going to be the guy (whoâ€™s) always sitting back on the sidelines not making those mistakes, youâ€™re not going to grow as a leader. The more mistakes you make here, the fewer mistakes youâ€™re going to make in country.â€
According to Desmond, the TSULC gave the battalion an opportunity to mold its future leaders and maintain its standards of excellence. He believes the course has better prepared Marines to make tactical decisions under pressure and lead others with confidence.
â€œSmall unit leaders have to make split-second decisions,â€ Desmond said. â€œIn training, a split-second decision can mean pass or fail. On the battlefield, a split-second decision can mean life or death. Weâ€™re going to force them to make tough decisions here so they wonâ€™t make the wrong decisions over there.â€