One of the Marine Corps’ most influential leaders, Maj. Gen. John A. Lejeune, stated that “One of the commander’s most serious responsibilities is to have Marines physically prepared for combat.” This sentiment continues to be a priority of Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, who has linked some of the success of the Corps to its “warrior-athletes.”
Marines assigned to Marine Aviation Training Support Group-21 (MATSG-21), at NAS Pensacola, Fla., this continued commitment is realized in a new outdoor facility designed to keep the warrior-athlete in mind. Col. Will “Wheels” Thomas, MATSG-21 Commanding Officer, described the course as a “magnificent facility that will be the pride of the command. All MATSG-21 Marines will now have the opportunity to conduct physical training in a facility that will better prepare them for the rigors of today’s complex operating environment. I am extremely proud of the facility and the hard work of all who have contributed to its completion. It is our newest way to fulfill our mission to deliver a better prepared Marine to the operating forces.”
The Combat Conditioning Course (CCC), officially commissioned on Oct. 23, embraces an outdoor classroom mindset and incorporates a Marine Corps obstacle course, Combat Fitness Test (CFT) lanes, 15 circuit-training stations, two covered Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) “dojos,” and a quarter-mile track which encircles the complex. Safety was factored into the design, with water misters for hot weather training over the martial arts pits and premium-grade rubber mulch used in many of the training areas.
The course will provide a decompression outlet for the thousands of Marines who spend months in classrooms learning the technical aspects of aviation maintenance. It also meets the Commanding Officer’s intent to institutionalize and improve upon the Enhanced Training Program (ETP). This program is designed to allow Marines to achieve tactical level certifications and qualifications while completing their warfare specialty training. Brig. Gen Davis said the value of the course is in that it prepares the Marines for combat early, instead of having to take the time at the fleet level to do the training. “This is a great place to do this,” Davis said. “I’m really happy with what they have done.” The end result is to send better prepared Marines to the operating forces to ensure mission success.
Marines of MATSG-21 conduct entry-level training for 78 aviation primary warfare specialties with an annual throughput of more than 5,000 enlisted Marines. The command, along with Aviation Maintenance Squadrons One and Two, provide leadership for hundreds of Marines in Naval Aviator, Naval Flight Officer, Air Traffic Control, and Expeditionary Airfield training. Additionally, MATSG-21 Flight Instructors are vital to the conduct of two-thirds of all primary flight training. Nearly 95 percent of aviation Marines receive all or a portion of their initial aviation training at MATSG-21.
Most of the Marines who come through the command are entry-level Marines with less than four months of active duty time, so force preservation is a high priority. The command expects to use the CCC to engage Marines with increased training opportunities and to contribute to a reduction in non-operational mishaps and conduct violations. The combat conditioning mindset embraces character development, mentorship, and physical preparation for the rigors of combat.
Additionally, MATSG-21 created a partnership with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to develop integrated training opportunities utilizing the CCC. The intent of the joint use of the CCC is to foster a cooperative mindset towards local authorities among junior Marines. This will yield long-term dividends in off-duty conduct and help to ensure Marines complete their training and transfer to the operational forces during a time of war.
“There will likely be a decrease in conduct violations, both on and off base, as Marines engage in the physically challenging, along with confidence and camaraderie building, training opportunities provided by the course. Tied to the physical attributes of the course will be character building and mentorship periods of instruction. We also see great potential for our integrated training plan to enhance relationships with our local law enforcement and to send the right message of cooperation and teamwork to our young Marines. Lastly, we are committed to the ongoing development of injury prevention education and techniques to mitigate the risk of training accidents to the thousands of Marines expected to utilize the course annually,” remarked Lt. Col. David Glassman, the executive officer of MATSG-21.
As MATSG-21 strives to implement the Commandant’s Vision and the Installations Strategic Plan, the Combat Conditioning Course constitutes a major step forward for that effort. The CCC’s focus on physical and mental growth will balance and complement the ETP’s already established certification and licensing components. MATSG-21 sees the new initiatives as a means to strengthen the command’s unwavering support of the operating forces and to embrace the Commandant’s warrior-athlete mindset.