Marines aim to perfect close-quarters tactics

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Marines aim to perfect close-quarters tactics

by: Lance Cpl. Stephen D. Himes | .
Okinawa Marine Staff | .
published: November 16, 2013

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Special Operations Training Group instructors are scheduled to train 30 force reconnaissance Marines in close quarters tactics throughout November at Range 160 on Camp Hansen.

The Marines will spend the first two weeks of training focused on advanced marksmanship with the M4A1 close-quarters battle rifle and the M45A1 close-quarters battle pistol.

The course is both mentally and physically exhausting, according to Staff Sgt. Benjamin D. Jacobson, a reconnaissance Marine with Force Reconnaissance Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force. Each day is spent working on improving every aspect of shooting to get as close to perfection as possible.

“The students are constantly under observation,” said Staff Sgt. Tim R. Manson, an SOTG instructor with III MEF Headquarters Group, III MEF. “We watch everything they do; the good and the bad. This causes quite a bit of mental stress because they know every movement is observed.”

Prior to the CQT course, the students attended a three-week method-of-entry course. The breaching methods included manual, ballistic, thermal and explosive entry techniques.

Understanding proper breaching techniques is important because once the Marines complete the marksmanship portion of the CQT training, they execute multiple live-fire, platoon-sized breaching and room-clearing events, according to Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Foret, the lead instructor for SOTG.

The students who complete the breach-and-entry portion of the course advance to the final week of situational tactical exercises.

The final week includes three full-profile mission scenarios to occur at locations unfamiliar to the students.

A full-profile mission scenario consists of an in-depth briefing, defining the team’s objective. From that point the team develops a plan, prepares its gear, executes the mission and debriefs the instructors on the result.

The instructors record each students’ actions and performances to see which students need to improve, as well as identify the students who are excelling in the training.

Identifying students who struggle with, or cannot control, their stress levels, according to Manson. It allows the instructors to pull students from the course before they become a danger to others when performing live-fire movements closer to the culmination of training.

“The students are acquiring a high-level of accurate marksmanship,” said Foret. “This level of marksmanship is required when breaching and clearing small spaces to minimize casualties.”

The instructors will also randomly choose students to re-qualify at the range. This allows the instructors to ensure the students are maintaining the high-level of marksmanship and adherence to fundamentals expected of them, while also ensuring the safety of the other students.

The course takes a great deal of effort, according to Jacobson, who added it is the hardest advanced course he has attended.

The culminating week puts the students in scenarios closely resembling real-world operations they may have to execute, according to Foret.

The students who graduate from the course will be assigned to an assault unit with the Maritime Raid Force of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.