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Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, spent three days in the field perfecting small unit leadership on the battlefield. Marines practiced leading squads and fire teams on patrols, taking enemy fire, closing with their foe and using their fire power to win the battle at Fort Pickett, Va., Sept. 4-6. Infantry units focus on a decentralized leadership style that allows them to be more agile on the battlefield.

Photo by Cpl. Randall A. Clinton

Small unit leadership drives 24th MEU's infantry battalion

18 Sep 2007 | Cpl. Randall A. Clinton

“Fighting is about momentum,” directed Staff Sgt. Tyree Adams, assault section leader, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“Whether you are in a fist fight or a gun fight it is still about momentum, you have to go on the attack; if you wait, the enemy is going to get the advantage,” he added.

To quickly and forcefully bring punishment to the enemy, the Marine Corps utilizes a decentralized command structure, giving young Marines authority over junior troops.

Typical infantry companies are broken down into platoons, then squads and finally fire teams. The last unit contains a fire team leader and two or three subordinate Marines. It is in these teams that the Corps small unit leadership thrives.

These teams, sometimes led by Marines with little more than a year of experience, were Bravo Company’s focus during a three-day field exercise here.

Adams repeatedly worked to dispel any myths the Marines might have regarding rank and responsibility.

“Marines get to understand it (a leader) is not always that particular (corporal) or (sergeant). It can be anyone who is there at the time who understands what needs to happen and takes the initiative to make it happen,” he said.

The transformation from follower to leading Marines in battle requires a shift in mindset for new leaders.

“The first time I went through this you have someone telling you ‘you’re going this way, this is what you are doing,’” recalled Lance Cpl. Tim Nellett, fire team leader, BLT 1/6. “When you are a fire team leader, you have two to three guys under you and you have to make sure they are going in the right place. What they are doing is more important than what you are doing.”

As trained fighters, team leaders need to remove themselves from “fog of war” and think larger than the impact of his rounds.

“It’s pretty difficult; most of the Marines like to be in the fight. They think that by not actually being in a fight, they don’t get to contribute,” Adams said. “When they get to learn it from this point of view, being a fighter/leader, they understand that their team is their weapon.”

And as the exercise progressed, senior Marines watched the junior leaders wielded their new weapons.

“This is our first training evolution with our (new Marines), and with them to be out here and doing it proficiently is a big step for us. They are putting rounds down range, they are listening, they are thinking on their own and they are doing their jobs,” said Cpl. Justin Goeden, squad leader, BLT 1/6.

When guided properly, the fire team becomes a deadly instrument moving quickly through enemy territory in a series of interval advancements known as fire and maneuver.

“Fire and maneuver is the bread and butter of the Marine Corps. Locate, close with and destroy, that’s what we do. Get these guys to learn this and we will be set,” added Goeden.

While these Marines have many months of pre-deployment training to polish their team tactics, the goal is to leave this exercise with confidence and smarter weapons on the battle field, said Adams.

Ultimately, these junior Marines and their evolution into leaders will determine success in combat and the future of our nation.

Headquarters Marine Corps