Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Gabriel J. Weaver, rifleman with E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, provides cover fire for his squad during an assault course as part of Exercise Chosin, a squad-level training evolution, at Range 410, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, Aug. 26, 2015.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz

'War Dogs' prepare to march with squad competition

3 Sep 2015 | Lance Cpl. Levi Schultz Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The Marine rifle squad has been the basic tactical unit of the Marine Corps since before World War II. While the composition of the rifle squad has evolved throughout the Corps’ history in battle, its significance has not.

“At the end of the day, if you unpack any tactical situation you will find that it will always come down to the rifle squad,” said Lt. Col. Steele, battalion commander, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. “It is up to them to close the last 100 yards and they are the ones that win battles.”

The 2/7 Marines’ teamwork and perseverance were put to the test during Exercise Chosin, a squad-level training evolution, held aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., Aug. 24 through 28, 2015.

“When we look at a deployment we ask ourselves the question, ‘what are the most arduous circumstances we could find ourselves in?’” Steele said. “The answer to that question is offensive and defensive operations. We might be asked to perform them in the desert or an urban environment.”

The exercise, held as a competition between squads, evaluated the Marines on efficiency and precision as they performed offensive, defensive and urban operations. Throughout the exercise, the companies in 2/7 alternated between Ranges 100, 215 and 410.

“The ultimate goal is to create an environment that challenges the squad leader,” Steele said. “What we are looking to assess, at the battalion level, is their proficiency in offensive and defensive operations as well as to observe them in both a desert environment and urban environment.”

While at Range 100, the Marines were tasked with hastily setting up squad-level defensive positions where they fended off simulated attacks.

To evaluate the Marines in urban operations, the squads conducted simulated assaults at Range 215, a military operations and urban training town. Role players brought a sense of reality to the assault as Marines took to the streets and stormed buildings to clear the sectors of the town.

Rifle squads executed an assault course with support from M224A1 60mm Mortars at Range 410. The mortars served to destroy a simulated bunker while the maneuver element breached barbed wire to begin live-fire on a trench. Upon clearing the trench, the squad leader received a situation report from his Marines before they repelled a counterattack.

“If we can excel in the high end of military operations, we will be able to excel in the low end as well,” Steele said. “The design of this exercise really speaks to that. Our focus is solely on our core tasks and ensuring our Marines are ready for whatever a deployment might throw at them.”

Recently, many of the junior Marines have begun filling squad leader positions, he added.

“Many of the Marines have done an excellent job of stepping up into leadership positions,” said Cpl. Kevin Clark, squad leader, 2/7. “It’s very important to do training evolutions with the focus on the squad like this. If you have strong fire teams and strong rifle squads, that can act independently, you can be prepared for anything.”

As a squad leader, Clark stressed the importance of taking care of Marines and ensuring they are ready for any situation.

“As an individual rifleman your weapon is your rifle, as a squad leader your weapon is your three fire teams,” Clark said. “You should always know the job that is two billets above you and ensure the Marines under you know yours.”

With the exercise completed and all squads successfully evaluated in MOUT, offensive and defensive operations, Steele expressed optimism for the future of 2/7.

“I have come to expect exceptional things from these men,” Steele said. “I have been with 2/7 for just over two and a half months now and I’ve been nothing but impressed with our squad-level leadership.”