CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – There is a deep-rooted tradition within the Marine Corps that pits rifle squads against each other to determine the most combat ready of them all. Engaging in a friendly, but challenging competition, the squads conduct a series of events that test their mission effectiveness, and in in the end, determine which is the “Super Squad.”
Marines and sailors with Alpha Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, revived this tradition as they began a week-long super squad competition aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 10, 2014.
Eight squads, of approximately 80 servicemembers, competed in 12 events that reflect a Marine rifle squad’s mission to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, and repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat. The events included live-fire M240B machine gun, M2 machine gun and Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon ranges along with route and area reconnaissance, infantry patrolling and combat logistics patrols. Marines also conducted operations in urban terrain, casualty evacuations, movement to contact drills, day and night ambushes and mission oriented protective posture gear exchange.
“The entire company is broken down into squads and they’re going to be conducting the training as squads. Based on how well they do in a particular event is how they will be ranked in the overall competition,” said Staff Sgt. Alfred Negron, a staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge with Alpha Company, 7th ESB. “It challenges the Marines, gives them the opportunity to test skill sets they have been practicing over the past few months and it brings the company together to develop camaraderie,” added the 28-year-old native of Columbia, S.C.
Negron said many of the servicemembers enjoyed the competitive nature of the training and pushed themselves to become the super squad. It was the first time they incorporated a squad competition into training, created to motivate the Marines and sailors and build esprit de corps within the company.
“It’s fun to compete against your fellow Marines,” said Lance Cpl. Jesse L. King, combat engineer, Alpha Company, 7th ESB. “You also get to see how the other [military occupational specialties] in our company work and get the chance to train with them,” added the 21-year-old of Chicago.
King stepped up as a fire-team leader during the area and route reconnaissance event, leading Marines, his senior, as they scouted simulated-enemy terrain and created accurate drawings and maps of potential convoy routes.
The training focuses on developing leadership skills in the junior enlisted Marines and sailors. The senior leaders only played the role of mission and task creators during the competition, the squad and fire-team leaders were accountable for executing.
“There’s a lot of small-unit leadership going on here,” said Capt. David Tran, commanding officer, Alpha Company, 7th ESB. “I purposely asked the staff NCOs and officers to back-off in order for the NCOs to take charge of their squads throughout the week, so they are empowered to make decisions in the lack of guidance. It’s important [to develop leadership] across the Marine Corps, that’s why we take pride in our NCO corps more so than most other services. Having them build the confidence as [leaders] is going to make the [company] better.”
The Marines scheduled a warriors’ night on the final day of the competition, where the company commander would announce the winner and congratulate the Marines and sailors for their hard work with a meal deserving of their accomplishments.
“Regardless of who wins, I think the Marines will come out of the field with more confidence in their own abilities and their [leadership] abilities,” said Tran, a 31-year-old native of San Diego. “It translates to everything else we do as Marines, I think all the NCOs will walk out with the ability to make decisions of their own and be that backbone to the Marine Corps.”