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Cpl. Richard Nedlic (Right), Light Armored Vehicle crewman and Cpl. Nicholas Guiles, rifleman, both with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and students in the Urban Leaders Course, fire their weapons from the supine position during a combat marksmanship program range at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 31, 2016. This firing drill is meant to train Marines to safely and accurately return fire if they fall backward while moving or are knocked down.

Photo by Cpl. Garrett White

Crawl, walk, run: Marines take their first steps in Urban Combat Leadership

8 Apr 2016 | Cpl. Garrett White I Marine Expeditionary Force

To be prepared for any environment, the Marine Corps has created specialized courses its young men and women can attend to learn the skills they need to be successful in the various battlefields they are expected to fight.

Marines in the Urban Leaders Course conducted a combat marksmanship range at Range 223A on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, March 31, 2016.

The ULC – run by 1st Marine Division Schools – is a three-week course designed to teach small-unit leaders the skills and techniques they need to conduct urban operations.

“The first week is built around classes introducing them to the history of urban operations and stability operations within an urban environment and ending with a combat marksmanship range,” said Staff Sgt. David Agundez, chief instructor of the ULC. “Today we are training in static shoots, speed-reload, lateral movement and barricade drills, and doing stress shoots.”

As the training progressed, Marines rehearsed different firing positions using various barricades to simulate terrain and building features they may encounter.

The course takes a crawl, walk, run approach, explained Agundez, an El Centro native. Students are taught the basic fundamentals and individual skills first and slowly build into buddy teams, fire teams and then squad-based movements and tactics.

While the course is primarily geared toward the infantry job field, it keeps allocations open for non-infantry Marines that are often integrated into infantry units.

Sgt. Jason Irons, sapper instructor with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Swansboro, North Carolina native, and student with the course, explained why this training allows him to better support the infantry units he may be attached to.

“My whole job is to get them past various obstacles,” said Irons, “Just because I breached a door, they can’t just leave me behind. I have to stay with them and keep moving, so if I can’t effectively move with them and know what they know and do what they’re doing, I can become a hindrance instead of an asset.”

While the Marines are learning new skills to make them more effective in combat, the course isn’t strictly about making them better. The training also allows them to return to their battalions and share their newfound skills with their peers and subordinates. 

“This type of training is for them, but it isn’t about them,” said Agundez. “It’s about the younger Marine that they help influence and teach. So we try and work off of getting rid of bad habits and teach them things that are only going to make them more proficient. Then they can transfer those skills over to their younger Marines.”

Taking a “train the trainer” approach helps disseminate these skills throughout the Marine Corps without the need to send each individual Marine to the formal course.

“As a sapper instructor I teach military operations on urban terrain,” said Irons. “Combat engineers focus on breaching in MOUT, but with this training I can teach them more about the shooting aspect of it. I have four combat deployments to Afghanistan and have gone through other MOUT courses before and I’m still learning something new here every day.”

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