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Darkhorse Marines school WTI on ground combat

By Pfc. M. Daniel Sanchez | | October 17, 2006

A Camp Pendleton, Calif., infantry company arrived here Oct. 2 to support the 1-07 Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, gaining some valuable experience for themselves in the process.

Approximately 220 Marines from Pendleton’s 3rd Battalio, 5th Marines, Lima Company, arrived on station to represent the Marine Corps’ ground combat element for WTI and provide realistic training exercises for the WTI pilots and crews, said 2nd Lt. William Sloan, Lima Company executive officer and native of Birmingham, Mich.

Since Lima Company recently returned from a deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism, the WTI participants were able to apply a lot of combat knowledge and experience to their training, said Maj. Jim Ryans, Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 ground combat division officer-in-charge and native of Detroit. These Marines were able to impart both textbook training and real-life combat experience.

The Marines conducted simulated tactical recovery of personnel, non-combatant evacuation operations, night and day raids and several other exercises with WTI.

Working with WTI has been a good opportunity for the Lima Company Marines, said Sgt. Nick Jeffries, platoon commander and native of Spokane, Wash.

They’ve learned more about the basics of ground combat during this training than in the School of Infantry.

The Darkhorse Marines also focused on building small-unit leadership with the new infantrymen who recently joined the company, said Jeffries.

“It’s been like reset training for us,” said Sloan. “About 50 percent of the company is composed of new-joins straight out of SOI. And for a lot of them, their first helicopter ride has been during this training.”

Marines put their lives in each others hands each day, and that is why learning and mastering the basics and building trust between the Marines is so important, said Cpl. Jeffrey Pearson, platoon sergeant.

There is an extremely close bond between infantry Marines, said Jeffries. These guys live, sleep and eat together. They must learn how to react together in any situation that arises.

Essentially, the goal of each squad or fire-team leader is to teach the Marines to function as well, if not better, when a leader goes down in combat, said Pearson, a Sandy, Ore., native.

“It has been an interesting dynamic,” said Sloan. “Because in the fleet the ground element usually drives the operation, but WTI is a school for pilots, and they do the planning.”

But this has helped the Marines become more prepared to pick up and go in an instant, said Jeffries.

“Essentially, I just want (the Marines) to take away the experience of riding in the different aircraft and what the different platforms can bring to the combat environment,” said Sloan.

The Marines have trained hard and put a lot of effort into helping WTI as much as possible, said Sloan.

Their support of WTI was exceptional and of the utmost professionalism, said Ryans.

Lima Company is scheduled to deploy again next year with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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