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1/3's Lava Dogs ride the waves during coxswain's course

By Lance Cpl. Michelle M. Dickson | | April 23, 2004

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As 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, prepares itself for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan, later this year, training continues to ensure the battalion is readily capable to complete any mission with great success.

As part of the evolution, 22 Marines from Bravo Co., 1/3, took part in a month-long Coxswain's Skills Course, successfully completing it, April 17 and gaining a second military occupation specialty:
small-boat coxswain.

A Marine must already hold an infantry MOS to be qualified for the small-boat coxswain position, and he must have obtained at least a third-class swim qualification.

The course taught the Bravo, 1/3, Marines to move military from ship to shore, as well as to conduct night-illuminated coordinated attacks, navigation and small boat handling to surf passages. The coxswain is positioned at the stern or rear of the boat. He is responsible for all Marines on the craft, plus maintaining the boat's speed during movement.

"The coxswain is responsible for anything that happens," said Capt. Jeff Broaddus, assistant officer in charge of the Amphibious Raid Branch of Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado, Calif. "It doesn't matter if a first sergeant is on that boat. He will listen to the coxswain and follow his orders, regardless of rank."

The rest of the Lava Dogs of 1/3 traveled to NAS, Ford Island, the morning of April 17, to finish a launch and recovery exercise. There were no shipping platforms available during the course, but the USS Boxer came into port, allowing the exercise to be completed. Marines loaded up into combat rubber reconnaissance rafts and hit the water launching and recovering from the USS Boxer.

"In real-life situations, this is what they are going to have to do," said Sgt. J.R. Parker, course director for the coxswain's course at Coronado. "We practice this a lot so the Marines feel comfortable with their job."

"A couple guys seemed pretty nervous at first," said 1st Lt. Robert Merrill, executive officer for Bravo Co., 1/3. "Over time, though, they all got the hang of it and put out really well."

There will be 18 rafts available for the MEU, and each one will belong to a Marine who completed the coxswain's course. He is then responsible for every other Marine he carries on that raft with him.

"Leadership is a huge part of this course," said Broaddus. "These [Marines] are privates, privates first class and lance corporals who are all taking on the roles of noncommissioned officers."

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