MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- The mission of a Marine Corps rifle squad is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver and repel the enemy’s assault by fire and close combat.
Over the course of the last three years, Marine Corps rifle squads have put into effect their rifle squad mission in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and even better known are the missions collectively executed by Marine Corps infantry units.
For the past five months, Marines with Headquarters Company, 7th Marine Regiment, have been preparing for their upcoming deployment by broadening their skills and knowledge as basic riflemen aboard the Combat Center.
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, the company executed a series of exercises involving machine gun training with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and M240G medium machine gun and live-fire military operations in urban terrain training.
The exercises all relate to the company’s vital mission in their deployment. Aside from working as a headquarters and service element, the company will be tasked with providing their own provisional rifle platoon and a jump team, tasks ordinarily assigned to infantry units.
The Headquarters Company jump team will be tasked as a force in readiness and convoy security element for the regimental commanding officer.
“The colonel needs to go out and see his men, so the jump team will provide him with the convoy and security,” said Capt. Randal M. Walsh, commanding officer of Headquarters Company. “Aside from that, they will be prepared to do other missions.
“The provisional rifle platoon is organized of all non-infantry Marines of different working sections in Headquarters Company. Having a unit like this is very useful. All of our battalions call upon us for services support and call upon other infantry units for infantry support. Now, they will be able to turn to us other than infantry battalions for infantry support. We measure up to a quick reaction force.”
The Marines have been brought together as one platoon and received training alongside the line company’s jump team. In the past five months, both the PRP and the jump team have been involved in field exercises such as convoy operations training, lane training, or squad rushing and assault, MOUT training, live-fire courses and anything that prepares them for potential missions in Iraq.
“These elements will be known as Regimental Combat Team 7 and will have their own internal capabilities,” said Walsh, a Phoenix native, about the PRP and jump team.
“There are many advantages to these elements and it relieves stress from infantry command elements. What makes this so advanced from other non-infantry combat units is that they have been paired with some infantry Marines from 3/4 [3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment] for guidance.”
All the Marines in these platoons have been identified by their section leaders and are mostly volunteers. Although the Marines from the PRP and jump team have been training and working together for the past five months, they will not be operating together in Iraq, added Walsh.
By Dec. 1, the Marines were more proficient as riflemen from when they began to train for their deployment and fully qualified in machine gun employment and squad-level training.
Lance Cpl. Spenser G. Fox, infantryman with India Company, 3/4, was tasked as a range coach during the M249 SAW firing course.
“Knowing all the fundamentals of a machine gun and how to fire them is very important to the Marines who will be carrying them in Iraq,” said the 20-year-old Yacolt, Wash., native. “Their mission is one of the most important missions out there, and they need to be ready in many ways. All these Marines are fast learners, and I have great confidence in them.”
Cpl. Alfredo Moreno, motor transportation operator with Headquarters Company was assigned as fire team leader in the second jump platoon.
“Training to be a part of a basic rifle platoon is what most Marines want to do in the Marine Corps,” said the 20-year-old Azusa, Calif., native. “It’s going to be a long deployment for us, and our mission will be demanding. But, we’ll have each other to rely on for help and guidance. Since we began this training, we all have drawn closer together as a unit.”
Other Marines assigned to the jump team share Moreno’s feelings. The Marines have spent many days training together in the Combat Center’s training area. Most hadn’t imagined themselves training to fight in Iraq, and for many of them the last field training like this they participated in was during Marine Combat Training, said Walsh.
“I think it’s more of an honor to be a part of this element,” said Lance Cpl. Steven G. Haddicks, a 19-year-old Compton, Calif., native and administration clerk with Headquarters Company. “Most of the Marines have been deployed to Iraq already so I feel privileged to go along with them again. We’ve been training hard together and interacting with each other a whole lot in ways to prepare ourselves for our deployment. I’ve always wanted to go through this experience and help with the fight out there, and I wouldn’t want to do this with anyone else by my side but them.”
The company is scheduled to deploy to OIF longer than most units to establish continuity in the regiment. Their skills have already been tested and they are prepared to go to Iraq as a defined fighting element, said Walsh.
“No matter what their military occupational specialty is, they are ready for combat,” he concluded.
The Marines will maintain an operational and training ethos dedicated to emphasizing the infantry combat abilities of every Marine. All Marines receive training first and foremost as basic riflemen. Consequently, the Marine Corps, at heart, operates culturally as an infantry corps, hence the saying “every Marine a rifleman.” Headquarters Company displayed this ethos by acquiring the title of rifle squads.