SHADOW RANGE, Iraq --
Every Marine is trained, first and foremost, as a rifleman.
This value was reinforced to the 32 noncommissioned officers who graduated the 14-day Tactical Small Unit Leaders’ Course here Jan. 11.
“We’re here to train advanced rifleman skills to Marine NCOs whose military occupational specialty isn’t infantry, so they can better lead their junior enlisted into a combat environment,” said Staff Sgt. Todd A. Rosalez, TSULC chief instructor, Advanced Infantry Training Center, Multi National Force-West. “We don’t sugarcoat the training because they’re not in the (infantry) field.”
Tactical Small Unit Leaders’ Course instructors teach the NCOs information straight from the Training and Readiness Manual, which is also used to instruct all Marines who go through the School of Infantry.
“The catchy saying ‘every Marine is a rifleman’ is being lost due to many Marines only focusing on their specialty job because they never leave the forward operating base,” said Cpl. John A. Rivera, 22, Margate, Fla., refrigeration mechanic, Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 1st Marine Logistics Group. “The TSULC course helps us improve our ability to lead junior Marines into the fight.”
The NCOs marched out to every range, some up to eight miles away, during the two-week course. Students participated in live-fire drills, employed crew-served weapons, threw grenades and familiarized themselves with other weapon systems used in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Non-infantry Marines are constantly going outside the FOB to conduct missions throughout Iraq. If confronted by the enemy, the Marines will be fully knowledgeable and capable of employing any weapon system to de-escalate the threat and carry on with the mission.
During one of the many live-fire drills, Marines maneuvered around obstacles, pushed forward in fire teams to assault a fixed objective, all while firing their weapons at targets.
Marines spend time in the classroom doing practical application, disassembling and assembling weapons until they’re familiar with the systems prior to ever stepping foot on a live-fire range. The NCOs also take two written tests as part of their course evaluation.
Marines also became proficient on the Blue Force Tracker system. The BFT, commonly found in almost every deployed United States military vehicle, is a Global Positioning System that provides location information about friendly forces on the battlefield. This equipment allows service members to communicate around the clock with fellow troops conducting missions outside the FOB or the ones on base observing from the command centers.
“The TSULC course is a program that educates corporals and sergeants on being better NCOs and how they can lead their junior Marines to succeed in the future,” Cpl. Bretton A. Mikitis, 20, Jacksonville, N.C., motor transportation operator, Transportation Support Co., CLB-2. “A lot of the junior Marines underneath me have at least one more deployment left in their enlistment.”
All Marines will benefit from the TSULC when it comes to leading service members in a combat environment.
“Every Marine NCO with a leadership billet, no matter their MOS, should be required to attend the TSULC course,” said Rosalez, 31, Temecula, Calif. “I make it my priority to train these NCOs to lead their junior Marines into combat and bring them home safely.”