CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
A 20-kilometer hike. A series of written exams and evaluations. A first class physical fitness test score. And this only the beginning.
After 9-weeks of training, Marine Corps Combat Instructors are ready to embark on a three-year career where they will transform newly-enlisted Marines into warfighters.
"We're looking for Marines in good physical fitness, with good integrity and a good character," said Staff Sgt. Nicholas B. Crites, one of the instructors for the Combat Instructor's Course. “
Combat instructors teach young, fresh out of boot camp Marines in the skills Marines need to succeed in combat. These skills include land navigation, combat conditioning and combat marksmanship training with individual and crew-served weapons such as the M16A4 service rifle, M203 grenade launcher and AT-4 rocket launchers.
The formal billet of combat instructor wasn't established until 2002, even though post-boot camp combat training was reinstated for all males in 1989 and females in 1997. This change placed the School of Infantry instructors in the same category as Drill Instructors, Recruiters, and Marine Security Guards in terms of bonus pay, promotion incentives, and status.
The change did more than benefit those with the billet, it also benefitted the quality of the Marine Corps’ approach to combat education as a whole.
A 9-week course was created to get prospective combat instructors mentally and physically prepared for the task of coaching young Marines in the skills that will help them keep both themselves and their fellow Marines alive in combat.
After being screened to verify that the Marine is fit to attend the Combat Instructor's Course, they undergo a refresher in the Marine Combat Training and Infantry Training Battalion courses they're being trained to teach.
"A lot of these guys are eight or nine-year sergeants and staff sergeants who haven't done any of this stuff since they went through Marine Combat Training or Infantry Training Battalion," said Crites. "It's a good refresher and it teaches them to lead large amounts of people while setting a good example."
They'll also be reacquainted with the arsenal and fundamentals of combat as well as introduced to leadership techniques and logistics that will benefit them in their role as an instructor.
Knowledge is only part of the training for prospective instructors. In order to be truly successful, they must also be physical capable. The combat instructor’s course guide suggests they adopt a physical training regimen similar to one used by the Marine Corps Special Operations Command to be ready for the challenges ahead of them.
New combat instructors are required to complete a 20km hike before graduating. Over the next three years, their students in Marine Combat Training and Infantry Training Battalion will be required to complete a similar 15km to 20km hike, one the instructors will undergo alongside them again and again to ensure their safety and success.
"It sets you up on that standard and then physically gets you were you need to be to be able to inspire the Marines you're going to train," said Sgt. Troy J. Garza, a Combat Instructor's Course graduate assigned to instruct Infantry Training Battalion, Charlie Company, talking about his experience with instructor's course.
Combat instructors coming from an infantry military occupational specialty will be assigned to either Marine Combat Training or Infantry Training Battalion while those who are non-infantry will be assigned to Marine Combat Training. There they will be tasked with applying all that they learned, both in the operating forces and instructor’s course, to produce combat ready Marines.
“I had a good experience with my combat instructors and I think it’s very important that we’re able to impart our knowledge and experience on these young Marines so we can set them up to be better than us,” said Sgt. Delfino F. Martinez, a combat instructor with Infantry Training Battalion, Bravo Company. “If we keep that mentality going, every generation gets better and better and better and we, as a Marine Corps, benefit from that.”
The mission of the Marine Combat Instructor School, School of Infantry-West, is to develop Marines' leadership, character, knowledge, and fitness in order to fortify them with the values, strength, and skills required to succeed as Combat Instructors in a challenging environment.
For more information on how to become a Combat Instructor visit the School of Infantry – West’s Marine Combat Instructor School unit homepage at http://www.tecom.marines.mil/.