CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The cadenced crack of machineguns and assault rifle fire echoed through the ravines, punctuated by deafening explosions made by improvised Bangalore torpedoes and shoulder-launched multipurpose assault weapons. The Final Field Exercise was an orchestra of firepower, and the students of the Advanced Infantry Courses were the conductors.
The Advanced Infantryman, Machine Gunner, Mortarman, Assaultman and Anti-Tank Missileman courses introduce students to advanced concepts, new technology, techniques tactics and procedures through classroom instruction, lecture, practical application, field training, and live fire exercises.
“We give them the necessary tools to lead and more gainfully employ their Marines in the operating forces,” said Staff Sgt. Cody Waldroup, Chief Instructor for the Advanced Assaultman Course and Advanced Antitank Course, Infantry Unit Leaders Training Company, Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry- West. “They learn and refine advanced tactics, land navigation, close air support and weapons systems.”
“Instead of working by themselves, the students also learn to integrate with Marines from other infantry military occupational specialties at a higher level,” added Waldroup.
The course culminates in the Final Field Exercise, a live-fire exercise which engages the students’ leadership abilities by allowing them a degree of flexibility in planning and accomplishing a company-wide mission.
“They get to see timing and sequencing across the board, work together with the other MOS’s, cross-communicate and see what everyone can bring to the table,” said Capt. Brian Hubert, Executive Officer, IULTC, AITB, SOI – West. “It’s a complex exercise.”
During the Final Field Exercise, each student had a specific role to play depending on their MOS. Mortarmen commenced the attack by providing indirect fire support, allowing the combined anti-armor team to establish a base of fire and start shelling targets with their 50 caliber and M240B machineguns.
This allowed the maneuver element to move into their assault positions. From there, they used demolitions to breach and attack the company objective using small-arms.
Coordinating and de-conflicting each unit’s actions was vital to the students’ success due to the complexity of the exercise and the different fire support assets involved.
“The students are going from one or two deployments into a leadership role and they need to understand how to use different indirect fire support assets at a company level,” said Hubert. “We emphasize the need to make sure the desired effect on the battlefield is achieved before they proceed with the attack.”
The courses last from five to seven weeks depending on the MOS, and train junior Marines and NCOs to become squad or section leaders when they get back to the fleet.
"I don’t have as much experience working with the other MOS’s and it’s been challenging,” said Cpl. Richard Bork, an assaultman and section leader participating in the course. “But we’ve been able to build unit cohesion and integrate with each other, which in turn allowed us to overcome challenges in training.”
“I believe it has improved my confidence and my ability to lead Marines in the fleet,” added Bork.