CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Upon graduating from boot camp, Marines are required to attend the School of Infantry, where they learn the essential combat skills to become a Marine rifleman. Like most things learned, these skills are perishable.
More than 90 Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 7, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, began their final exercise of the Basic Combat Skills Course aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 18, 2013.
The BCS Course is a weeklong class that teaches Marines and sailors the basics of operating in a combat environment. The training includes classes in land navigation, combat logistics patrols, counters to Improvised Explosive Devices and combat hunter skills. After training day four, they apply these classes in the field.
“During the BCS [course], we teach individual and collective skills to prepare the Marines for combat,” said Staff Sgt. Juan A. Salazar, operations chief, Combat Skills Training School, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st MLG. “After [training] day four, they apply everything they learned for the final exercise. This is just a stepping stone to build the small unit leadership needed for future operations in combat.”
To ensure the course runs effectively, 16 instructors are tasked with teaching and supervising the class. The team conducts a course every other week, were they qualify Marines in the basics of leadership in combat.
“Our main focus is on the small-unit leadership, the squad leader or fire-team leader,” said Salazar, a native Houston. “This is their bread and butter. I enjoy training the Marines so I can better prepare them for the worst case scenarios. We teach the small-unit leaders to figure things out on the spot and in a timely manner.”
To attend the course, Marines from CLB-7 embarked from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, located at 29 Palms, Calif. Coming all this way, the Marines made sure the valued training would be put to good use.
“We’re here to prepare our Marines for a future deployment,” said Capt. Michael M. Tatosian, company commander, Transportation and Support Company, CLB-7, CLR-1, 1st MLG. “The training gives them more confidence in basic infantry skills. Typically, we’re not exposed to this type of training as [motor transportation Marines],” added the Lewiston, Maine, native.
During the final exercise the Marines had to put their knowledge to the test and conduct combat logistics patrols, where they encountered simulated IEDs. They also interacted with an Afghan community portrayed by role-players.
“The course takes them away from the comfort of their jobs and puts them in the role of a basic infantry Marine,” said Staff Sgt. Harold E. Linsley, BCSC chief, CST School, CLR-17, 1st MLG. “These basic skills are perishable. The training brushes off the rust and ensures basic combat skills are remembered. Scenarios like the one with role-players can give the Marines a new training experience. It puts a cultural face on the operations, giving the experience of dealing with a different culture,” added the Mount Vernon, Ohio, native.
Apart from the mental challenges of learning new skills and testing old ones, the course can be a challenge physically.
“The course is very physically demanding,” said 1st Lt. Andrew J. Gerdes, commander, 1st Platoon, TS Co., CLB-7, CLR-1, 1st MLG. “The Marines are constantly carrying a combat load and wearing flak and Kevlar while going up and down different types of terrain. Physically, it’s taking a toll on their bodies.”
Although the training was more than halfway over, the service members still had a lot left on their plate. It was only day one of their final exercise. Equipped with knowledge from the course and guidance from their dedicated instructors, they were confident and ready.