NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia — “Hurry up, make the call, what’s your call, give me something!” In combat, bullets fly all around, casualties fall to the floor and exhaustion takes over, but Marine leaders have to step up and take charge.
Marines and Australian soldiers developed their combat leadership skills during a Frontline Leaders Course at Robertson Barracks, Northern Territory, Australia, on Aug. 29 to Sept. 16, 2016.
The course helped develop junior leaders so they can impact those under their charge and the future of the Marine Corps.
1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, created the course and officially conducted it for this first time this rotation. The best instructors, teachers, and leaders from around the Marine Corps came to pass on their knowledge to students, including instructors from the Marine Corps University traveling from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
“We all worked together to make this course happen,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Douglas K. Cox, a Frontline Leaders Course squad advisor.
The course intends to further students’ professional military education past the Marine Corps’ Lance Corporal Leadership Ethics Seminar Training, Corporals Course and Sergeants Course.
“We help guide them to be better leaders,” said U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Lopez, a Frontline Leaders Course squad advisor, “We show them what it takes and build them up from there.”
15 Marines from different companies within 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, MRF-D, and eight Australian soldiers from 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, participated in the course.
“It’s good to be working with [the U.S. Marines] and vice versa,” said Australian Army soldier Cpl. Jackson W. Reay, a Frontline Leaders Course student with 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment. “We can all learn from each other to make ourselves better.”
Participants faced four challenging phases. The first phase, Aug. 29 – Sept. 2, focused on ethical, moral, administrative, and problem solving training necessary for noncommissioned officers to execute their duties as small unit leaders.
“In combat, it’s making important decisions every day,” said Lopez, reflecting on his deployment in Afghanistan. He said new leaders need to learn how to make good decisions fast. “Sometimes you don’t really have time to think how you’re going to decide, you have to rely on your training.”
Instructors gave students tough scenarios during this phase, requiring them to make hard decisions fast. Students used their previous training to help make the right call.
Phase two, Sept. 3 – 8, trained Marines and Australian soldiers in common technical and tactical skills expected of a noncommissioned officer. This training included combat conditioning in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, treating casualties in the Combat Lifesaver Course, operating a radio in incidental scenarios, and simulating a call for fire.
During phase three, on Sept. 9 – 11, students had to put their newly acquired skills to the test. The day started at 0330 and for three days, students had to work as a team during sustained combat-like operations under the stress of minimal sleep and caloric intake. They faced real human factors of combat such as uncertainty and high levels of mental and physical fatigue.
“You’re true character comes out when you’re very fatigued,” said Lopez, a rifleman with Company C. “Who are you going to be, the lazy guy who gives up or the guy that keeps pushing forward?”
Students gained leadership experience enabling them to lead future units under austere and challenging conditions.
The final phase on Sept. 12 – 16 built student’s confidence and competence with their service rifles. U.S. Marine Corps snipers taught students advanced handling and technical training in combat marksmanship with the M4 carbine, M16 rifle and M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Students became more accurate and lethal marksmen ready to lead their future Marines in the fundamentals of marksmanship, handling, and tactical employment of the service rifle.
All 23 students graduated on Sept. 17, 2016, after a very challenging three weeks. The training has prepared them to become the next leaders on the frontlines.
“This course taught us a lot of technical skills, like how to shoot, but it also taught us how your mind should work and think, and how you should treat and care for your Marines,” said Lance Cpl. Austin J. Hanna, a Frontline Leaders Course student. “This training, it’s a start, and it feels good to graduate.”
Graduating from the course while forward deployed in Australia will allow Marines with MRF-D to bring everything they’ve learned back to their companies in the U.S.
The quote, “you will not rise to the occasion, you will fall to your level of training,” resides with the graduated students. They will be able to rely on the training they have received from this course to lead during any occasion.