Article by: Patrick A. Rogers
The Marine Corps 1st Force Reconnaissance Company
The following is the second part of a 3 part article spanning 4 issues of The Accurate Rifle. Part I : January 2000 Volume 3 Number 12 Part II: February 2001 Volume 4 Number 1 Part III Section 1: April 2001 Volume 4 Number 3 Part III Section 2: May 2001 Volume 4 Number 4 The Accurate Rifle 222 McKee Street Manchester CT 06040 860 645-8776 http://www.theaccuraterifle.com
Part II : Training
Admission into Force is by means of a lengthy and demanding selection process. Any Marine, regardless of Military Occupation Specialty (MOS) may apply. The applicant, regardless of rank, needs first and foremost to be a proven performer (generally for 3-5 years). The Company is looking for first class people--those who perform well in the Physical Fitness Test, who are strong swimmers and good shooters. He needs to have a GT score of 105. Ideally he will be from an infantry battalion, but there are several Warehouseman and Motor Transport Marines in the operational platoons. (One major plus in the selection process is that all Marines have attended Boot Camp and the School of Infantry. No matter what their MOS, they have shouldered a rifle, read a map, and patrolled day and night).
On the last Thursday of every month, applicants are invited to attend the indoctrination test. Previously a less formal affair, it has been standardized and is administered without harassment. There is nothing demeaning about the indoc. The standard is set, and is not subject to change. The platoon administering the test accompanies the applicants throughout the day--physical fitness is a never-ending thing here.
It begins with the standard Physical Fitness Test (PFT). Enlisted men must score 275 (out of 300), and officers 285. It is followed by a timed obstacle course and calisthenics exercise.
Because Force Reconnaissance Marines are amphibious by nature, the pool is next. A series of swim exercises follows. And if he is still hanging in, he is ready for a 10 mile "boots and utes" hump--over the hills of Las Flores and down along the beach, with a 50lb. pack and a rubber rifle.
If he successfully completes this physical test, he is afforded a psychological screening and then an interview. For Officers, it is with the Company Commander. For enlisted Marines, it is with the Company Sergeant Major and several of the senior enlisted operators. They are looking for that special fire, a mean gene inside of the Marine to ensure he will hang tough under the most difficult of circumstances.
The candidate may be dropped for any reason during this process, though he can retake the indoctrination at a future date. (Many do. It is not unusual for a Marine to make it after three or four attempts).
he percentage of those passing the indoc fluctuates, but it is always closer to zero than 50%. What has been noted is that an individual who passes the indoc will usually complete 100% of the schools and successfully be integrated into a platoon. It shows that the Marine has properly prepared himself mentally and physically, and has made a commitment to succeed.
There is no automatic acceptance into the Company. A Marine reporting in from any other Reconnaissance unit must still take the indoc.
Before he can join the Company, his Commanding Officer must agree to release him--and this is not always easy. There has always been an institutional dislike of Force by the rest of the Marine Corps. Many believe that Force sucks up the absolute best men and an unbelievable amount of money to perform their missions. That is absolutely true. But the tour for enlisted men is five years, with a possible two-year extension, and eventually these Marines go back to other units. When they do they bring with them a tremendous amount of expertise and confidence. (This is unlike the special forces of the sister services, where they have a career field. They may stay forever if they choose, and the inability to remain in Force Recon is something that irks many in the Company).
In spite of not having a career path, the re-enlistment rate in 1st Force, not only among operators but also support personnel has been near 100%. The Marines want to stay in the Company, and for many reasons. There is a sense of mission and purpose here that does not exist in most of the DOD establishment.
The work is hard, but they are hard men and accept the challenge.
Training within the Company is outlined by the Mission Training Plan (MTP). It follows a systems approach to training, and the emphasis is to train as they expect to fight. While this is often paid lip service to in other units, it is the gospel here.
A quote from the MTP says it all. "The best form of WELFARE for our Marines and sailors is first class training; this saves unnecessary casualties".
The Mission Training Plan has five phases, and is based on a two-year platoon cycle. Training is ongoing and continuous, and functions as if it were a loop.
Phase 1 Individual Training Phase
Phase 2 Unit Training Phase
Phase 3 MEU (SOC) Training Phase
Phase 4 MEU (SOC) Deployment
Phase 5 Post Deployment
Phase 1 will last approximately six months, and begins when a deployed platoon is returned to the Company. The primary focus of effort here is the development of those basic skills necessary to create an MOS qualified Marine (8654) new to the Company. For those already qualified, it is the time to develop advanced reconnaissance skills.
Additionally, Professional Military Education (PME) requirements (NCO Course etc.) must be met.
At the end of Phase 1, the platoon is fully formed and ready to begin unit training. Listed below are the minimum skills resident in each platoon at that time.
Basic Reconnaissance Course - All members
Basic Airborne School - All members
USMC Combatant Dive School - All members
SERE School - All members
Military Free Fall School - All members
Ranger School - All team leaders and above
Static Line Jumpmaster Course - 2 per platoon
Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Course - 2 per platoon
HRST Master Course - 2 per platoon
Dive Supervisor Course - 2 per platoon
LAR V Technician Course - 2 per platoon
Ammunition Drivers Course - 2 per platoon
USMC Scout/ Sniper Course - 1 per team
Mountain Leaders Course (Summer) - 1 per team
Mountain Leaders Course (Winter) - 1 per team
Laser Operators Course - 1 per team
Once accepted into the Company, the Marine attends the Phase 1 Basic Qualifications.
These qualification courses are the eight week long Basic Reconnaissance Course at Little Creek VA. or Coronado, CA. While all Marines have received basic scouting and patrolling at the School of Infantry, it is here that the Marine learns the skills necessary to operate in the reconnaissance environment.
Next is the Combatant Dive Course at Panama City, FL. During this eight-week course, the Marine is introduced to closed and open circuit diving, dive physics and laws, dive medicine, underwater searches, and other related subjects.
He then attends Basic Airborne Course at Ft. Benning, GA. During this three-week school, he will make his five qualifying parachute jumps.
At some point he will attend Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) school at North Island, or SERE Instructors School at Ft. Bragg.
Advanced schools include Ranger School at Ft. Benning, GA; Military Free Fall (MFF) School at Yuma, AZ.; Static Line/ MFF Jump-master School and Pathfinder School at Ft. Benning, GA; Summer and Winter Mountain Leadership Course in Pickle Meadows, CA; Applied Explosives Course, at SOTG or Quantico; Dive Supervisors Course at Panama City, FL and the Helicopter Rope Suspension Training (HRST) Course in Camp Pendelton CA or Camp Lejeune, NC.
For the Sailors, the schooling is similar--with some notable differences. The Navy Corpsman assigned to the Company are a special breed. While one would normally think of medical personnel being non-combatants, working in a reasonably secure environment, that is absolutely not the case of the Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman. When assigned to a platoon, they are shooters first, and caregivers second. As Senior Chief Robert Fitzgerald states, "Fire superiority is the best type of combat medicine". (Senior Chief is the senior SARC in the Navy, and another genuine hard guy in the midst of a bunch of other very hard guys). In a platoon, the Corpsman is assigned to the headquarters team. He will usually carry that teams M249 SAW.
The pipeline for the Corpsman runs for approximately 72 weeks of schooling, exclusive of travel and administrative time (awaiting school quotas etc.)
It starts with the 7-week Field Medical Service School at Camp Pendelton or Camp Lejeune, where he learns basic medical skills and how he will function in a Marine Corps unit.
Next are the 12 week Basic Reconnaissance Course, the 3 week Basic Airborne Course and the 8 week Combatant Diver Course.
The Corpsman breaks from his Marine brothers, and attends the 8427 specific schools. The first is the Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman Diving Medicine Course at Panama City, FL. From there he moves to the 24 week Special Operations Combat Medics Course at Ft. Bragg.
And finally, the 22-week long Special Operations Medical Sergeant Course also at Ft. Bragg. The famous 18-D course is extremely demanding, and trains the Corpsman to independently assess and provide minor and acute long-term medical care for a variety of medical conditions, including minor surgery.
Once the Corpsman joins a platoon during the Phase 2 iteration, he attends all of the platoons training. In the field he is indistinguishable from the Marines he serves with. He is a