JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- The screener’s final evolution had Marine candidates conducting an extensive patrol through the wilderness while evading an opposing force. Their objective end state was to reach an extraction point as quickly and quietly as possible.
“Candidates have to treat it as if it’s a real mission to see how they handle the stress and how they act under pressure,” said Sgt. Michael Beard, the candidates’ platoon sergeant. “They had to apply everything they have learned over the past two weeks.”
The candidates, operating under very little sleep, carried their packs for miles through the woods. It was a priority to be evasive of the enemy, and to stay off the roads and hide if an aircraft was passing overhead.
If they came across the enemy, a role fulfilled by the screener’s instructors, they had to break contact and keep moving.
Candidates had to navigate the patrol on their own, using a map to define their route and at times stopping to reapply camouflage and face paint.
“I’m here training differently than in my primary military occupational specialty,” said Lance Cpl. John Baron, a candidate with the platoon. “I’m here to be a part of something that can actively do things the infantry cannot.”
With their patrol over, the candidates returned to garrison to take their final written exam and conduct a thorough interview with their instructors.
“We ask a series of questions to evoke some thought and to better understand the candidate and how he thinks,” Beard said.
Staying with the screener until the very end does not guarantee a candidate a spot in the platoon. The evaluation process will continue until a decision is made for each candidate.
“Just surviving the indoctrination and screening process doesn’t guarantee that they will have a spot in the platoon,” Beard said.
Throughout the screener, the platoon had support from the Scout Sniper Platoons in 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines.
“It’s a testament that the scout sniper community can work together to better train the Marines as a whole,” Beard said. “Partnering with these units brought more training value and experience to the table. It made the screener better-rounded.”