MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- "Possible IED, possible IED." The patrol halts as Marines locate a possible threat to the mission, an improvised explosive device.
Part of being a Marine is to be ready for any situation, whether it's overseas or back home. Marines with Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group, prepared themselves for future deployments to Afghanistan by taking the week-long Enhanced Combat Skills Course at Camp Pendleton, Oct. 19-23.
The ECS Course focuses on most skills needed to survive and indentify threats in Afghanistan.
"[Rear Area Security] Course was replaced by the new ECS Course," said Sgt. Miguel E. Cruz, an instructor with Combat Skills Training School, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group. "This new designed course focuses more on Afghanistan rather than Iraq like the RAS Course."
Changes were made to the course to reflect what Marines will experience if they deploy to Afghanistan. Many classes were removed or replaced with new classes to handle the needs of deploying troops.
"We cut down unnecessary classes to provide more time for [practical application] to the Marines," said Cruz, 24, from Brownsville, Texas. "RAS originally had 22 classes while ECS only has 15."
During the first three days of the course, Marines receive instruction on combat orders, hand and arm signals, patrolling, combat profiling and call for fire, Cruz explained. Since there is more time for Marines to conduct practical application, they get more hands-on instruction for training, making them more efficient after the course.
"The course is also good for noncommissioned officers, staff noncommissioned officers and junior officers," Cruz said. "It familiarizes them with the situation, the environment and helps them understand the leadership role in patrolling. This portion of the course is the [Combat Patrol Leaders] Course."
The course helps them build confidence in decision making in a stressful environment, helping them understand that any decision is better than no decision at all."We try to get them away from their natural pause and act instantly upon given situations," Cruz said.
After three days of classes and practical application, Marines are tested for their patrolling skill, combat orders, hand and arm signals and how to handle locals and insurgents during a 36-hour field exercise.
"Most of us have never met each other before Monday," said Capt. Paul W. Harris from Olney, Texas, commander of Headquarters and Service Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group. "And all it took was about 10 hours for everyone to work together efficiently as one unit."
During the field exercise, Marines patrol around the training site, guarding the Command Operations Center and communicating with the locals. The patrol unit also has to clear a town, which the villagers and insurgents are role-played by instructors and the unit NCOs. The Marines learn how to react to an IED and how to care for the injured. Finally, Marines learn to clear a building full of insurgents, react to an ambush and how to communicate with the COC. Perfect practice makes perfect. Marines must take their training seriously to become efficient later during deployment in a real situation. The harder they train here, the less they'll bleed on the battlefield.