Squad leader course "clears" the way for combat

24 Sep 2003 | Lance Cpl. Adam C. Schnell

Some Marines can consider their job a real blast; especially a group of thirty combat engineers who recently completed the Sapper Leaders Course here.The course is held twice a year, and is designed to give advanced training in the arming and disarming of explosives, and creating defenses in combat situations.The course's name, Sapper, originates as far back as 1501. Sappers were usually military members who had the ability to build and repair buildings, reform the countryside with demolitions and use heavy equipment to obstruct the enemy. Marines today still require these skills.During the course the Marines train for a variety of missions using explosives and knowledge they gained in their military occupation specialty schools, said Sgt. Nicholas R. Killin, an instructor for the course."We help build upon the knowledge they already know and prepare them to be a squad leader of engineers in combat," added Killin, a Kingman, Ariz., native. The Sapper Leader Course covers a variety of engineer related topics. From engineer reconnaissance; which determines road conditions for convoys, to battlefield fortifications, such as building bunkers and defensive positions. The Marines also learn how to provide combat support."Field fortification is anything we can do to slow down the bad guys while protecting our own," said Killen.The Sappers also learn advanced techniques on how to build explosives and what types to use for specific missions. The type of explosive used depends on what is being blown up. From using bangalore torpedoes for clearing paths in barbed wire, to breaching walls and doors with composition-4, a plastic explosive, the Marines can maximize the impact of their efforts and skills. The students are taught to use the smallest amount of explosive with the least amount of collateral damage, said Master Sgt. Clint E. Schultz, the acting officer in charge for ETA-3.The training the students receive is challenging and demands from them what is needed to be a leader of Marines, said Killin. In addition to the engineering skills each Marine is taught about teamwork and dedication to mission accomplishment."It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but I think it's well worth the training," said Lance Cpl. Sung H. Lee, a student who participated in the course.