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The Few, The Proud, The Reconnaissance Marines

By Cpl. Casey Scarpulla | | August 8, 2014


The advanced infantry training battalion, reconnaissance training company, out of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., concluded phase two of the Reconnaissance Team Leaders’ Course, Monday, utilizing Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., and its surrounding ranges.

This course is designed to take experienced reconnaissance Marines and give them the requisite skills to become successful leaders of Marine reconnaissance teams. The rigorous, three-phase course currently has 12 students and seven instructors.

Phase one of the team leadership course, when most of the classroom instruction occurs, was held in Camp Pendleton. The students focused on material concerning the planning, operational and leadership portions of the reconnaissance and patrolling missions they conducted in phase two of this course.

For 27 days, phase two was held on MCAS Yuma and the eastern Barry M. Goldwater ranges, where the reconnaissance Marines embarked on seven different patrols, some of which involved reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

“These missions are the most intricate and hardest missions that reconnaissance Marines are faced with,” said Gunnery Sgt. AJ Pasciuti, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the course and a native of San Jose, Calif. “With completing this mission, the goal is that other missions they are led into will be essentially an easy planning process because this one is so intricate.”

The missions they accomplish are what reconnaissance and force reconnaissance teams may face in real operations regarding route, area, and zone reconnaissance, with the possibility of vehicle/personnel interdiction, route security, or deep reconnaissance in support of the Marine Expeditionary Force or division assets.

The third phase of the course, which encompasses familiarization with the amphibious leadership principles they need to perfect, is the amphibious phase held in Coronado, Calif.

According to Pasciuti, MCAS Yuma was chosen for the second phase of their training for two reasons.

“MCAS Yuma has been the most supportive base we’ve ever worked with or come across, as far as reconnaissance assets,” said Pasciuti. “The second reason is that the training area around here is one of the most austere training environments within North America.”

The harsh climate of the surrounding areas gives the students the opportunity to realize that every mistake or gear mishap will have an impact on the mission.

“If you fail to bring enough water, wearing the wrong boots, carrying too much gear, are undisciplined with the approach, or you don’t respect the environment or wildlife in it, this training environment will show you and essentially humble you,” said Pasciuti.

In other environments, such as the jungle, Marines can live off the land, if needed. However, in Yuma and the surrounding ranges, students have to adjust and adapt to the barren land. Planning properly is the most important lesson these Marines will learn in this climate.

The advanced infantry training battalion does not train for specific environments, so the Marines are well equipped for any and every location. Training events in other environments, in areas of California and North America, are in the planning process to train these team leaders in every clime and place. Between the students and instructors combined, every active reconnaissance battalion in the Marine Corps is represented during this team leadership course.

These Marines are fully equipped with many skills, including the abilities to operate with and support aviation capabilities.

"A lot of the time, the air side is looking to work with the ground side and vice versa," said Pasciuti. "We can conduct parachute operations, close air support, live ordnance with close air support, simulated close air support. We have joint terminal attack controllers, joint fires observers and snipers. We have everything we need."

In order to earn the title team leader in the 0321 (reconnaissance) military occupational specialty field, Marines must have certain prerequisites. Some examples include serving in the operational forces for at least one year at their duty station and completing at least one deployment.

"This course is a grooming course designed to help polish and refine reconnaissance team leaders to lead, mentor and train other recon Marines," said Pasciuti. "So, what we need to do is run these Marines through a rigorous testing and assessment process in order to ensure that we have the most capable and professional team leaders for the job."

And after all that, at the end of the three phases of this course, there will be about a dozen new reconnaissance team leaders in the Corps.  

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