15th MEU News

BLT 2/1 learns a new 'element' to providing security

7 Aug 2002 | Cpl. Anthony R. Blanco

This isn't a typical shooting range where a leatherneck could fire a hundred rounds and call it a day. Instead, Range 130 is covered in more brass than dirt after Marines from Battalion Landing Team, 2/1, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fire more than three hundred rounds before afternoon chow in order to develop precision shooting skills.The Security Element Course, taught by Special Operation Training Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force here, offers Marines and sailors the opportunity to enhance their basic rifleman skills with precision shooting during the two-week course.The course teaches the Marines and corpsmen of Trailer Platoon, Headquarters and Support Company, 2/1, to assist force reconnaissance Marines by providing external security when they enter a hostile building. The trailer platoon also supports force recon by stopping enemy reinforcements and securing avenues of approach outside the building, said Gunnery Sgt. Richard W. Waak, dynamic assault instructor, SOTG. Instructors stress the importance of surgical shooting throughout the course, which is the art of hitting key areas of the body known as a kill shot. Adding to the difficulty of the course, students train in full combat gear accompanied with knee and elbow pads over flight suits.Students wear flight suits instead of the regular camouflage utilities because they are more flame resistant, according to Sgt. Derek Holtman, security element instructor. Due to the nature of the course, students are put in situations where a fire could possibly start. "We use the suits as a precautionary safety measure," he added. Marines and Sailors also practice their Close Quarters Battle skills by firing at multiple targets, shooting on the move and reacting to various situations while shooting from distances between three and 50 yards. "We learn to combat shoot here," Sgt. Miguel A. Bolanos, 3rd team leader said. "It's not like the (Known Distance) range where you have 20 minutes to fire 15 rounds. Here you have five seconds to shoot three rounds, two to the chest and one to the head, while you're on the move."Fifty students fire approximately 92,000 rounds during their two-week stay to help them feel more comfortable with their weapon, according to Waak.To some Marines, like Cpl. Jeffrey O. Davis, team leader, this training is nothing new to him. Davis recently transferred from 2nd Fast Company, stationed at York Town, Va., where he did similar training. The 21 year-old Los Angeles native used this course to maintain his skills and to gain camaraderie among his Marines. "This course should give (junior Marines) a lot of confidence with the (M-16 A2 service rifle)," Davis said. "This course opens so many doors such as, firing on the move, pivoting, shooting inside an enclosed area and firing behind barricades."Not only do Marines and sailors fire large amounts of 5.56mm rounds to help reinforce muscle memory, they also fire the new M4 Super 90 Benelli shotgun. Waak also added he would like to see the course add the M4 assault rifle and the .45 caliber pistol, which are both weapons that force recon train with.This is one of the first courses offered by SOTG as part of a Maritime Special Purpose Force package and once Marines pass this hurdle, they'll be able to attend courses such as a more detailed Close Quarters Battle, fast rope qualification, Assault Climbers Course and several others.Infantry Marines who have never gone through a CQB course see a different style of fighting than they're used to."Every basic rifleman should attend this course, because in the future, battles are probably going to take place within an urban area," Cpl. Fred D. Archmiranada, infantryman, trailer platoon, said.When students are not on the firing line or busy reloading their empty magazines, they receive classes structured around combat and how the human body reacts during conflict."This training helps get us in the right mindset for our upcoming deployment with the 15th MEU," said Staff Sgt. Bernard Dogan, trailer platoon sergeant. "The Marines enjoy this training and are eating it up." In the second week of training, students start to transition from firing on line to learning how to perform room clearing. In addition to clearing rooms, students also receive night firing classes. Toward the end of training, students go through an obstacle course which tests physical fitness, shooting accuracy on the move and in a variety of different positions. Adding a twist to the "O" course, instructors simulate a chemical nuclear, biological and chemical attack by yelling "Gas! Gas! Gas!" which prompts the students to don their gas masks. Students must finish the course shooting with their gas mask on until their last shot is fired.While some Marines make their way through the obstacle course, others are going through the stress course. The stress course involves the student running approximately 75 yards wearing their gas mask and then firing on multiple steel targets. The stress course concludes with the student carrying a human-sized dummy 20 yards.1st Lt. Matthew S. Nichols, trailer platoon commander, commented on how well this course teaches his Marines. "This course is raising the bar on individual shooting and providing (Marines) the confidence they need to be successful out in the field."
15th Marine Expeditionary Unit