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Sergeants Course produces top notch NCOs

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Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 9:03 am | Updated: 2:03 pm, Mon May 6, 2013.

Notorious for getting things done and strong leadership, sergeants have long been referred to as the backbone of the Marine Corps. Marines enrolled in the seven-week Sergeants Course Class 1-12 completed their final field exercise at Combat Town on Nov. 22.

“The course is pretty intense,” said Sgt. Michael Abelar, a marksmanship instructor, Weapons Training Battalion, Marine Corps Base Quantico. “It really covers everything you need to better yourself as a sergeant.”

The mission of the Sergeants Course is to provide Marine Corps sergeants and sergeant selects with the knowledge and skills necessary to assume leadership roles of greater responsibility.

The course, which spends two weeks sharpening field skills and five weeks on professional education, makes this possible by using a curriculum that emphasizes leadership development and warfighting skills necessary to lead Marines in combat.

“That’s exactly what we’re teaching out here today,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nicnor Galvan, a faculty advisor for the Sergeants Course, Marine Corps University. “We’re taking them out of their norm, and putting them into situations that force them to develop some of the skills they may be lacking.”

During the training, Marines had to develop an avenue of approach and a scheme of maneuver for securing their objective. Once the plan of attack was finalized, Sgt. Eric Chauvette, squad leader, then briefed his five-paragraph order, which covers in detail how the mission will be carried out, using a terrain model.

“For some of the Marines, briefing a five-paragraph order can be difficult,” Galvan said. “Some aren’t comfortable talking

in front of their peers. So we make them do it because that is the only way they get better at it.”

With rain pouring down the day of the exercise, the Marines began to do practice runs for different scenarios such as enemy contact from different positions, squad rushes and casualty evacuation.

“It’s not enough for them to know what the plan is,” Chauvette said. “They need to know how to physically respond once we take enemy fire.”

With determined faces, the Marines mounted their gear and began to make their way across the slippery terrain to Combat Town in a tactical column. With their objective in sight, the squad began to take heavy enemy fire. Quickly the Marines found cover and returned fire.

As the enemy continued to lay suppressive fire, Marines awaited orders from their squad leader, but, overwhelmed with the situation, he could not summon the correct orders to shout. It was at this point the Marines’ plan of attack began to fall apart.

“My mind kind of went blank for a second,” Chauvette said.

After what seemed like hours, Chauvette finally found the words and shouted, “Clear the first building.”

Instantly, the Marines made their way to the first building, but were hit with an improvised explosive device upon opening the door, taking several casualties. 

Eventually, the Marines were able to secure the city, but lost more than half their men in the process.

“It really came down to me not communicating my orders clearly and quickly,” Chauvette said.

Instructors gathered the Marines and went over where their plan had failed and ways to improve in the future.

“Communication, in the end, was the hardest thing for these Marines,” Galvan said. “That’s the hardest thing these Marines will face in this course. Once they complete the course, they will they will have a greater awareness of what a strong NCO does.”

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