CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - With the Kevlar on his head, the encouragement of his brothers, and his bravery, Pfc. John Vernon, landing support specialist, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, took hold of the rope firmly, drew in a deep breath, and jumped. After swinging for a moment, he joined his peers on the other side of the simulated danger area during the Leadership Reaction Course aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 4, 2014.
The LRC, designed to draw out problem solving skills and further develop leadership, begins with the obstacle course, which includes jumping over walls, balancing on logs and climbing a rope at the very end. After this, a two-mile combat conditioning hike takes the Marines to the final objective, “the stalls,” where each Marine would have their leadership tested.
“We sent about 115 Marines to the LRC primarily to promote teamwork,” said 1st Lt. Jordan Merritts, adjutant, CLB-5. “This is a unique opportunity for [junior Marines] to step out from behind their corporal’s shoulders and experience what it’s like to make decisions that will affect the outcome of a mission.”
Upon arriving at the stalls, Marines divided into six-man teams and split between 12 stations. At each station there is an obstacle, equipment to take across the obstacle, and a mission detailing what the Marines cannot do to complete the task. The majority of the obstacles appear relatively simple at first, but there is a catch. The parts of each obstacle that are colored in red indicate a life-threatening danger and the ground represents impassible terrain. If any member of a team touches the ground or a red portion of the obstacle, the entire team is penalized and has to run with sand-filled ammo cans.
“If you are deployed and a situation turns sour, maybe a Marine on your team goes down, you are going to need to pick up additional duties that they can no longer perform,” said Sgt. Sean Northrop, crucible field instructor, Weapons and Field Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego. “That is what the ammo-can runs simulate. There will always be consequences for failure.”
In addition to building leadership traits, Merritts, a native of Hollidaysburg, Penn., believes the course provides “right brain thinkers” with the opportunity to engage themselves in creative thinking and developing “outside-the-box” solutions to tricky situations, a chance that many of these Marines may not have in their daily jobs as mechanics, motor transportation operators or landing support specialists.
According to Vernon, a native of Dayton, Texas, his team used their belts to move a barrel to the other side of an obstacle. Although the training focuses primarily on the skills to lead other Marines, rather than physical prowess, there are times when a team is relying entirely on one Marine.
“Often times there will be what we refer to as the ‘lynchpin’ Marine,” said Northrop, a native of St. Paul, Minn. “They are the Marines who will not be able to rely on someone. For example, if a team of Marines are assisting each other over an obstacle, the last Marine to go has to be able to do it the hard way.”
A mission rarely ever goes exactly according to plan, but that’s when Marines do what they do best, said Vernon.
“It taught me to improvise, and it made me realize just how much we have to rely on each other,” said Vernon. “Marines do everything with less and the brotherhood here is unlike any place else.”