Photo Information

Marines from 3rd Platoon, Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., pose for a photo at a NATO obstacle course at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Aug. 13, 2014. The "Third Herd" traveled to Marine Corps Base Quantico to conduct a field exercise focused on land navigation and combat conditioning.

Photo by Capt. Carl Quist

Ceremonial marchers improve infantry skills

26 Aug 2014 | Capt. Michael Bell, Staff Sgt. Guillermo Fargas

The primary mission of a Marine rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver or to repel his assault by fire and close combat. Without a set of complementary warfighting skills, though, infantry units of all sizes would be unable to destroy any enemy.

Marines from 3rd Platoon, Company B, Marine Barracks Washington, D.C. recently traveled to Marine Corps Base Quantico to conduct a field exercise focused on these complementary skills, particularly land navigation and combat conditioning. 

“As much as we pride ourselves as being proficient riflemen on ranges and in combat, marksmanship does not matter if you cannot navigate from the assembly area to the objective or have no energy left during the final assault,” said Capt. Mike Bell, 3rd Platoon commander.

Company B is one of two infantry companies stationed at the Barracks that primarily conducts ceremonial missions. However, they regularly go to the field to train to maintain their combat arms proficiency.

“Even with our busy schedule with our ceremonial commitments, it’s important to utilize every opportunity we have during the parade season to sharpen our infantry skills,” said Lance Cpl. Cody James, a New Smyrna Beach, Fl., native.

The Marines executed a land navigation course aboard Quantico’s Camp Barrett that spans one and a half square miles. This is the same course new second lieutenants at The Basic School use when learning land navigation.

Each buddy pair had three and a half hours to find five objectives throughout the heavily wooded, dense training area.  Using a compass, map, and terrain association, fourteen out of the sixteen buddy teams successfully located all of their objectives. The other two only missed one objective each.

“Land navigation is a perishable skill that has to be refreshed no matter the difficulty of the course or training environment,” said Staff Sgt. Guillermo Fargas, platoon sergeant.  “Marines will not always have the luxury of a GPS and must be able to operate using a map and compass.”

“Land navigation isn’t only important for each Marine and his unit to reach an objective, but also for us to know where we are in order to liaise with other friendly units,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew Brookswisby, an Aurora, Ind., native.

The second part of the training exercise was the NATO obstacle course. The course is a series of obstacles set on pavement track. It differs from the standard Marine Corps obstacle course not only by its style and structure, but because it’s completed while wearing tactical gear. Also, the course is completed as a team not as an individual. The Marines did the course as four-men fire teams with each team receiving a score based on time. The Marines could not move to the next obstacle until every member of the fire team completed the previous obstacle. Obstacles included rope ladders, a barbed-wire low crawl, high hurdles and a sand pit.

Through the initial time trials, 1st Fire Team, 2nd Squad posted the fastest time by completing the course in 8 minutes 21 seconds. The average time for all fire teams was just over nine minutes. After a break, each squad leader picked their five fastest Marines to represent their squad to go through the course once more. Second Squad, led by Lance Cpl. Jordan Osborne, posted the fastest time of 6 minutes 30 seconds, beating 1st Squad by 17 seconds.

 “The NATO course allowed the Marines to learn teamwork and motivate each other throughout the course, like we’ll push each other on live-fire ranges and in combat,” said Lance Cpl. Brendan Phares, a Norco, Calif., native.

Overall, the platoon leadership said the training exercise was successful as the Marines of 3rd Platoon improved their land navigation skills while enhancing their physical fitness and mental toughness.

They said breaking away from a summer full of representing the Marine Corps in Evening Parades, Sunset Parades and funerals allowed the Marines to focus on developing their warfighting skills as many look to transition to operational infantry battalions in the near future.