BLT 2/1 platoon defines meaning of brotherhood through squad tactics training

19 Aug 2005 | Cpl. Andy Hurt

NORTHERN TERRITORY, Australia – Marines from 4th Platoon, Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, recently manipulated what was meant to be a routine field evolution into an in-depth exercise focusing on the fundamentals of rifle platoon squad tactics.The field evolution, hosted in the “Outback” of Australia’s Northern Territory, was a routine port call for BLT 2/1, the ground combat element of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), currently underway on a Western Pacific deployment (WESTPAC 05-1).Under the leadership of Staff Sgt. Ryan A. Gnecco, platoon commander, 4th Platoon, Co. G Marines hiked across the rugged terrain, making frequent stops at nearly 17 ranges in the Kangaroo Flats Training Area to hone marksmanship and patrolling skills. Aside from the routine pattern of firing weapons, eating and sleeping, the warriors of 4th Plt. had other priorities.“The focus of this training is really for the squad leader and down,” said Gnecco. “It’s the fundamentals like marksmanship, squad tactics, target acquisition and movement.”Fourth Plt. Marines, normally designated as the “trailer platoon,” a follow-on force for high-speed direct-action raids conducted by Force Reconnaissance assets, concentrated much of the six-month pre-deployment work-up cycle to urban combat tactics-- a far reach from conventional field movement techniques. The platoon’s first training opportunity since leaving the U.S. in July, Gnecco said it was time to get back to work.“We’re getting these guys ready and dusting the cobwebs out; working on core skills and giving the squad leaders a chance to work with their Marines.”Gnecco, a former drill instructor who has been with BLT 2/1 since December 2003 and has a reputation in the unit for pushing his Marines to their limits, spoke from a relaxed position while his squad leaders set up a squad movement course, peppered with booby traps. By cutting his squad leaders free and allowing them more one-on-one time with their Marines, Gnecco said he hoped to maximize the beneficial aspects of the unique Australian surroundings.“A lot of Marines don’t get chances like this, so they’re beginning to feel confident with their gear. Honestly, we’re not getting that many rounds, but the ones we are getting are being well used,” he said.“We’ve got different types of ranges, and different types of settings to work with. The more you can train with, the better it is.”Corporal Daryl Gullett, a squad leader with 4th Plt., was on the same page as Gnecco. Getting back to the fundamentals of squad movement, said Gullett, was a priority for more than just re-familiarization.“Training with Force (Reconnaissance) got us in the habit of moving in a (Military Operations on Urban Terrain) environment, and we hadn’t worked much on squad tactics,” he said. While being careful not to forget the skills they had learned during urban training, Gullet said, the platoon picked up new squad techniques by moving in the field, which are valuable tactics in nearly any situation.“You never want to forget the fundamentals,” said Gullett, “if you can get the basics down in the field, you can move your squad anywhere.” The Grand Prairie, Texas, native said that because of the careful focus on squad fundamentals, he feels that the time in the field was an irreplaceable training opportunity in preparation for situations the platoon may face during the deployment. Offering a different perspective on the training was Sgt. Juan Perez, 1st squad leader, 4th Plt., from the Bronx, N.Y. “The bottom line is having the Marines take knowledge they gained during work-ups, and using it without hesitation. That’s really the objective of all these ranges,” he began, “Once those bullets start snapping over your head, there’s no second guessing.” Perez, having served two combat tours in Iraq, said he spoke from experience when he stressed the importance of confidence in training exercises. “It’s important to take training as seriously as possible, because it may be your only chance to prepare. You won’t always have someone showing you what to do,” he said. Perez added that throughout his four years in the Marine Corps, he has always had a desire to pass on as much knowledge as he could to his Marines – before it was too late. “I always said, ‘When I become a squad leader, I’m going to pass this stuff on.’ It’s that kind of discipline that will save your life.”Even though almost every Marine in 4th Plt. is willing to offer a different and equally important perspective on the importance of squad tactics, Perez summarized the collective notion that coming together as a band of brothers, led down a path forged in squad tactics fundamentals, will carry any squad through combat. “Out of my entire time in the Marine Corps, Fourth Platoon has the best camaraderie I have ever seen, and it’s because of the leadership.”For more information about the warriors of 4th Plt., and the Fighting 13th MEU (SOC), visit the unit’s Web site at www.usmc.mil/13thmeu.
13th Marine Expeditionary Unit