Riverine Training Center sets new coxswains at the helm

20 Dec 2000 | Sgt. Arthur Stone

"Push!  Push! Push!"

The command is barely spoken before twin outboard engines roar to life and a coxswain and his Rigid Raider Craft tear from a secluded position on New River Inlet. 

He drives his payload of Marines toward their objective, sweeping their landing zone with sharp eyes and ready weapons.  The coxswain relies on the speed of the raid and the suppressing fire from two nearby Riverine Assault Craft, which are tearing up real estate on the landing zone with their medium and heavy machineguns.

Being a coxswain is not a Military Occupational Specialty for the faint of heart.  It includes piloting a fiberglass vessel armed only with an M-9 pistol and one's own weight in sheer guts and innate piloting skills.

Students at the Riverine Training Center here at Courthouse Bay acquire new skills on the waters of New River Inlet not achieved by most Marines from the infantry MOS fields. 

They come here to the Coxswain Course to learn the basics of handling small craft on rivers, creeks, estuaries, swamps and open water accesses, including the surf zone.  According to Capt. Jeremy L. Gray, officer in charge, Riverine Training Section, Riverine Training Center, Special Operations Training Group, located at Courthouse Bay, the classes are small, ranging from 12 to 18 students.

"We are not looking to give a mastery of the knowledge or skills," Gray said.  "We look to solidify the basics.  The mastery of the skills is something they will pick up as they go along. 

"Something I tell each graduating class is they walk out, not as a coxswain, but as a licensed boat driver.  The reason I make that statement is it's something only time and experience will give them.  We serve three functions here: to teach, to support and test," said Gray. 

He added the main focus of the RTC is to train new coxswains and teach conventional riverine operations.  They also evaluate standard operating procedures and equipment for the Marine Corps riverine community.

Camp Lejeune is a natural site for the RTC with its bays, sounds and waterways, as well as the ability to conduct live fire from craft to shore. 

The RTC offers a four-week RRC coxswain course, an eight-week RAC crewman course, in addition to Marine Expeditionary Unit, Special Operations Capable courses.  These include a two-week scout swimmer course, a two-week boat company interoperability course, a weeklong company raid course and a four-week combat rubber reconnaissance craft course. 

The Maritime Navigation Training Section at the RTC also offers a four-week over-the-horizon navigation course. 

The center teaches host nations and country teams to develop and improve riverine programs in Latin American countries and provides forums for professional interchanges of ideas and strategies for developing and improving these programs with our allies. 

These forums have not been limited to South American countries, but have also been conducted in the countries of Croatia, Romania and Uzbekistan as well.

"My section varies a lot on who we teach and what we teach," Gray said.  "Not everybody wants to use the same equipment or wants the same training package.  "My section trains guys to go from point A to point B on a river, take control of it and kick anybody off of it we don't want there and maintain control of it."

For more information about the RTC and the courses available, contact Capt. Gray at 450-7371.