CAMP DAWSON, W. Va. -- A small contingent of reconnaissance Marines from Camp Lejeune established a patrol base atop the Briery Mountain here recently to practice basic survival skills, assault rappelling and climbing techniques.
Whether they come over land, by sea or air, reconnaissance Marines bring with them not only their specialized arsenal and equipment, but more importantly the knowledge and maturity to make crucial decisions that are essential to ensure mission success.
"We accept Marines from all occupational fields, but we look for a special breed of Marine," said Gunnery Sgt. William K. Schanz, recon training platoon sergeant, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion, 2d Marine Division. "I can work with a Marine whose skills are lacking as long as he has a strong desire to excel and good attitude towards training."
Schanz, of Dallas, is one of a veteran team of recon Marines who is responsible for the indoctrination and basic training of candidates for the "swift, silent and deadly" unit. He credited the recently retired and former Reconnaissance Battalion Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Mike Dean for founding the current training program.
Recon accepts volunteers who pass an initial screening and selection process either from the School of Infantry or as prospective lateral movers, said Apopka, Florida's Sgt. Maj. Doug Marquess, 2d Reconnaissance Battalion sergeant major.
Volunteers like Philadelphia's Cpl. Leo F. Cunningham of Company "C," First Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, who said he is seeking greater responsibility and more advanced warfare training.
"I have done practically everything I could do [at my level] in the grunts," said the rifleman. "I'm looking for a bigger challenge now."
"A challenge is what they will get," said Staff Sgt. Carlo G. Gaito of Boston. "It takes at least two years to get these Marines operationally ready for a Force [recon] platoon.
According to Gaito, a candidate is typically scheduled to undergo the Basic and Advanced Reconnaissance Courses during those first two years. They may also attend a Close Quarters Combat course to learn specialized urban warfare or helicopter ropes/suspension training, which teaches methods of fast-roping and rappelling from buildings, cliffs or helicopters.
Most pin on their first airborne wings at Fort Benning, Ga., where they complete basic parachute training.
They gain scuba and combatant diver certifications at the Naval Dive Training Center at Panama City Beach, Fla., and may attend Mountain Survival Training in Bridgeport, Calif.
Most must also endure Survival, Evasion Resistance and Escape training due to the inherent nature of their duties. Many others acquire specialty skills such as pathfinder, tracker, water survival instructor or emergency medical technician.
"Recon is a totally different way of life," said Fort Walton Beach, Florida's Sgt. Ric Achee of Sixth Force Reconnaissance platoon.
"These Marines aren't just cowboys seeking fame or glory, we train them hard and stress leadership traits and principals," said Schanz.
"We use peer evaluations to monitor our progress," said Cunningham. "Teamwork and unit cohesion are the keys to our success."
The training here culminated in a four-day mountain patrol final exercise.
For further information regarding Recon or to join, call 451-2351/2225 or contact your career planner.